Oct 19, 2016 | By Nick
Steve Sammartino, a futurist based in Mebourne, believes the fourth industrial revolution that is 3D printing could change the face of the Australian Outback.
We all know that 3D printing means the whole supply chain is set to change, and that we can make basic products with a simple design that we download online right now. As 3D printing technology matures then we simply won’t have to worry about ordering a product and the logistical problems and costs.
That matters to us all, but people living in remote regions stand to reap the real rewards. Sammartino, the author of ‘The Great Fragmentation’, argues that it will give Australians total freedom to live in remote areas without paying a price. In turn, that will help populate parts of the Outback that were simply considered out of bounds in the past and mean that people already in those places can enjoy a much better quality of life.
“In the hunter-gatherer era, our spear and primitive tools defined work and location – we followed the herd,” he said. “We lived off farms and villages in the agricultural era and moved to the cities en masse during the industrial revolution. But now, in the age of silicon, for the first time we can separate location and labour.
“We can live where we want and it provides the greatest opportunity in human history for remote locations. Silicon is the great equaliser.”
Australia is a vast, sprawling country and a large portion of the nation has been left behind, technologically speaking. The government is taking steps to correct that and has now embarked on an ambitious project to ensure that even the most remote areas of the nation have a solid internet connection with a number of satellites. It’s almost inconceivable to most of us that there are people in the civilized world without an internet connection, but the Australian Outback presented a huge challenge.
According to the government figures, 86% of the country’s land mass houses just 3% of the population. In the modern world, though, they all need a reliable internet connection and this costly project aims to put the entire population online by 2020.
Climate change, the slump in the global economy and ever-decreasing profit margins have hit the farming communities that traditionally kept the Outback alive. But a consistent internet connection gives the locals options and should encourage businesses to set up in the furthest flung reaches of Australia.
It will also mean that the locals can download 3D files and create products or tools on-site that could take days or even weeks to deliver to their homes. You might not find a metal 3D printer in every house right away, but each village or community could easily have a 3D printing facility where they can take their files and walk out with the product they need.
The likes of Aurora Labs are gearing up for the increased demand with a new 3D printer that creates solid metal products and costs less than $40,000. It isn’t quite on a par with the top flight metal 3D printers, but at that price it could give the local communities a chance to change their lives.
It means farmers will be able to get a machine working quickly. If a community’s water pump goes down then they can repair it the same day, rather than waiting weeks for parts.
Local doctors and dentists could also benefit from additive manufacturing, as they’ll be able to create custom splints and casts, as well as temporary implants and quick fixes that can help the patient cope until long-term items can be manufactured and shipped.
We can 3D print custom prostheses that can stand the test of time right now, of course, so there’s no reason why these regional 3D print shops couldn’t print a permanent option in a lot of cases.
The people that will actually get the internet connections are cautiously optimistic right now. “It’s still too early to really see how these may have an impact in remote communities – our focus is on getting basic connectivity and skills in communities,” said Daniel Featherstone, general manager of the Indigeneous Remote Communities Association.
“No doubt once there is good connectivity and skills the possibility of 3D printing will become apparent, especially due to the lack of access to suppliers for spare parts and items that can be printed on-site.”
So it’s going to take time to get Australia 100% online and then the remote communities will have to switch on the benefits of 3D printing and learn a new skillset. When they do, though, they will suddenly find there’s no price to pay for living in a remote location and we might even find people leaving the cities for the good life in Australia’s legendary countryside.
[Source: The Guardian]
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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