Biomimetic file 161: Extreme Micro Architectures

Why this innovation is about to fundamentally disrupt businesses

latticeImage source: J. Bauer/KIT. 3D printing at the nano-scale is an emerging high technology which will transform manufacturing as we know it…

Highlight: “Nanotechnology, the ability to manipulate structures on an atomic level, has the potential to revolutionize our world. From creating artificial skin that allows the user to “feel,” to using nanoscopic algae “backpacks” to deliver chemotherapy treatment, it is a technological field that constantly breaks new ground. Exemplifying this, a new study in Nature Materials showcases the world’s smallest 3D lattice structure – one that is made of glassy carbon struts 500 times smaller than the width of a human hair…Lightweight construction materials… are found everywhere in nature, Dr. Jens Bauer, a researcher at KIT and lead author of the study, noted in a statement: they have a high load-bearing capacity and small weight and, hence, serve as models for mechanical meta-materials…”

Insight: 3D printing is quickly developing and expending its potential from the large (e.g. entire building blocks) to the very small (nano scale). It is in the process of fundamentally changing societies models to a level that has perhaps not been well understood nor anticipated.

The fact that anyone, individuals and organizations, already or will soon have the possibility to design, develop and print virtually anything is both a tremendous breakthrough and a source of innovative opportunities but also a significant threat from multiple angles. Indeed, the very structure of societies including competitiveness, copyrights and public safety will be greatly challenged.

For instance lets imagine that a company has had a well established customer base for some time manufacturing ear phones. Little did this company anticipate that 3D printing technology now allows anyone with the right equipment to print sections of their products accurately,  modify or even improve the design according to the demand. A group of 3D printing enthusiasts find out that replacement earphone covers materialized as small plastic tubes are high in demand because the consumers tend to lose them often and the parts age very fast. So far the original  manufacturing company has been making good money from selling these customized replacements at high price which was a significant part of their revenues for this product line. Thereafter the pop-up company starts to massively produce these parts which they sell directly to the consumers with a range of additional options at a cheaper price through an online business and quickly overtake the original company market shares. The outcome is a business collapse for the original company which has failed to anticipate this risk. Due to the market overtake the company is forced to close its factory in China which  manufactures this specific part resulting in hundreds of jobs losses and further financial difficulties escalating from this simple part overtake…

The above scenario will become more and more a reality and there is currently little legal systems can do to prevent this from happening. Governments as well as corporations should be aware of the trend and start to adapt and anticipate…

Are your products/parts of your products prone to being manufactured by so called pop-up companies? If so beware of the risks that an unwanted overtake could have  on the rest of your supply chains and manufacturing processes…

More information: here

What is Biomimetics: the field of gaining inspiration from nature first to solve some of our most difficult challenges. Instead of coming up with our own solutions to a problematic, the odds are that species on the planet already offer an ultimate solution. This simple fact is also another strong case to preserve species at all cost as the intellectual heritage contained within or through the study of species is both irreplaceable and invaluable…

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