Computer aided or assisted design has evolved thanks to the robotic revolution and innovations that made 3D printing a reality.  Today’s designers and craftsman can exchange the hand-tools they used to use for digital design tools and equipment that allows them to turn their imagination into a part or product in a fraction of the time.   And not just where they are, but anywhere in the world where the equipment and materials are at hand, without ever having to leave their workshop.

Financial Times

Thanks to technological strides in computer-aided manufacturing, jewellery designers are now able to release more unique designs more frequently – and they are precisely matching supply and demand in the process.

“With 3D printing, it doesn’t matter how intricate a design is or how many variations you make, the cost of production is only determined by the material used,” says Duann Scott, designer evangelist at Shapeways

“This means a unique item costs the same price as a one-size-fits-all item.

“Because all items are 3D printed to order, supply exactly meets demand. Customisation is free, there is no inventory and no risk to innovate,” says Mr Scott.

3D modelling and printing allow you to redesign on the fly, prototype and literally ‘fax’ finished parts.  And while almost anyone could push some buttons if that all it took, it does not take away from the talent or vision of artists or designers that will be needed to make the system work.

“We are seeing an emerging field of expertise called digital craftsmanship,” says Mr Scott. “Three-dimensional modelling techniques require an understanding of material, process and digital tools all honed over time with a meticulous eye for detail in much the same way as traditional craftsmanship.”

At some future date, when equipment and material costs allow, the article points out that 3D printers could be part of every household.  You could order a part for a kitchen appliance and have it in your hands shortly after.  With no need to maintain inventory or a distribution network, costs could be reduced considerably, as long as long as the networks, computing power and base materials were at hand.

Before we get to that point, business and industry will be able to capitalize on the same benefits with custom 3D printers that can create specialized parts, materials, or tools they need, when they need them.

Depending on its evolution the 3D printer could completely change distribution and supply chains for a wide range or products and materials in the years to come.