From the Spectator
Anyway, if I owned a dildo factory in Shenzhen, I’d be a worried man by now. And, totemic as they are, it’s not just dildos: all aspects of our complicated global supply chains are threatened by the 3D printing revolution. The implications of this – of being able to cut out the middleman in consumer products, as we’ve already done in services like buying books, watching films and ordering taxis – ought to temper Western assumptions that economic power will only keep shifting eastwards. And, in turn, there are less obvious social and cultural implications: the ‘two worlds’ Gill identified as ‘absolutely distinct’ can at last become one again, as artists utilise modern computer-aided design and production techniques to deindustrialise manufacturing and create cottage industries in both new and traditional crafts.
I don't know if anyone is a fan of The Big Bang Theory, but there's an episode (The Cooper/Kripke Inversion) which rather skewers the problem of 3D printers. In the episode, two of the characters realise they can make better plastic models of themselves than the ones they bought, if they go out and buy a 3D printer, and that they can make as many as they like. But this also leads to a showdown with one of the character's wives when she realises they spent $5,000 on a machine to build 3 tiny model toys.
And in this case, you might well be able to get all the dildos you want for free, but you've got to spend £1200 for the dildo-making machine. And as Lovehoney sell dildos for £10, that means making 120 dildos just to break even. You've also got to store it somewhere and maintain it. Might as well just go online, click and get a dildo sent in 48 hours.
Look at reality - an ice cream maker is about £40. It makes ice cream that's slightly cheaper than the likes of Ben and Jerry's and is better. So, why don't people own ice cream makers? Because it's a lot more hassle than sticking a tub of Ben and Jerry's in the trolley at Tesco's (even people who buy them generally end up sticking them in the back of a cupboard shortly after purchase).
I think we may see more custom manufacturing in future, where you can go online and buy goods and each good gets made differently. We currently do this with cars and laptops and Timberlake do it with some boots. But that'll still be running on machines in Shenzen or Sheffield doing it in large numbers and sending the goods out to people.
Tuesday, 8 July 2014
From the Spectator
My latest blogpost: 3D Printers and DildosTweet this! Posted by The Stigler at 14:48