Blockchain now combines with 3D printing to transform manufacturing:
The promising blockchain technology is now forming a powerful combination with another promising technology 3D printing. The combine has potential to transform manufacturing, and impact the future course of globalization.
Globalization has resulted into manufacturing industries moving to low-cost geographies, from countries that had industrialized early and had become affluent. This move has been possible due to multiple factors, for e.g.: improvement in shipping technology, highly powerful information and communication technology (ICT), vastly improved transportation facilities, and easier flow of money and people.
However, 3D printing may reverse this move of manufacturing to low-cost geographies. This technology brings in digitization of goods, which will help in production of large volumes at low-cost. This also makes products easier to modify. While raw material still needs to be transported, the design of parts and components can be digitized, thus reducing manufacturing costs. This reduces incentives to move manufacturing facilities to offshore, however, the low-cost geographies will also be benefited due to lowering of entry barriers to manufacturing industries, which will help local small businesses. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2025 the economic gain generated by 3D printing could be US $ 550 billion.
While 3D printing is indeed promising, the businesses utilizing it need to ensure the integrity of the software files used by the machines, especially when those are shared. The software files could be tampered by hackers, and there could be human errors that could introduce flaws in them.
Blockchain, with its promise of decentralization and immutable record can help here. Nodes on the blockchain, i.e. computers on the network, maintain a shared version of truth, where every node has the entire information on the blockchain, and there’s no central server. The rigorous consensus mechanism requiring majority of the participating nodes to approve a transaction, and the need to solve complex cryptographic puzzles before a node can create a new block, make hacking a blockchain economically non-viable.
Italian start-up project 3D-Token combines blockchain with 3D printing. They have created a blockchain-powered hub of 3D printers. The network is called “Network Robot’s Workforce“, and this blockchain-powered online platform facilitates between different 3D manufacturing projects. The resultant economy of scale could significantly reduce production cost. By early 2018, the company had a network of about 100 3D printers, and they plan to increase it to 3,000 by the end of 2019, with 1,000 network members. The production capacity by the end of 2019 is expected to be 300 tons of processed bioplastics. The platform is built on Ethereum blockchain, and all transactions within the 3D-Token platform will be carried out using the crypto token 3DT, which is built on ERC20 standards.
The Italian start-up company Politronica Srl, created by the Italian university “Politecnico di Torino“, has created the 3D-Token platform. Their ICO ended in February 2018, and had been very successful.