Everything Old is New Again

14. April 2016 09:42

Everything Old is New Again 

Not all that long ago most of the items that the average person used on a daily basis was made within a short distance from where they lived and worked. Certain parts of the world were renowned for the quality of specific products. Sheffield England for example, was long known in our industry for making the finest steel cutting tools. But in most cases people bought the items of daily life from the people who made them. Today, for better or worse, we boast a global economy where even the most mundane objects we pick up are made halfway around the world.

But while earlier technologies made it profitable to centralize manufacturing, today’s technologies and social realities are swinging the pendulum back toward decentralization. Consumers are looking for ways to buy locally grown food and locally made products. And manufacturing technologies are making this more possible every day. Computers now control milling machines, plasma cutters, lathes, and 3D printers. The software that drives these machines has become vastly more powerful while falling in price. The first 3D CAD/CAM software I used 15 years ago cost nearly $20,000.00 per seat. The 3D modeling program that runs my 3D printer cost $45.00. Today, for the price of a mid-sized sedan, a mini factory can be set up in 1000 square feet that can make most of the non-electronic items needed around the home using metals, plastics and wood.

More and more of our customers every day are looking for businesses and products that are locally produced. They may be driven by interest in their local economy, or by environmental concerns, or by the desire for custom products that can’t be bought in a department store. As businesses, it is in our own best interests to at least be aware of these changes going on around us. There are new customers and new opportunities emerging every day, and history shows us that evolving to embrace change is far more valuable than ignoring it.

There was a time when cottage industries made many of the products common people used day to day. Advances in transportation and manufacturing technologies have changed this to the world we know today, but social trends are combining with the latest technologies to swing the pendulum back to a more locally based economy. Are you keeping track so you will be prepared for the new opportunities? At this year’s IWF show, you have the opportunity to learn the latest trends in manufacturing for our industry and related fields. The “3D Printing and the Return of Cottage Industry” seminar is specifically designed to give you an overview of the changes effecting the marketplace right now and in the near future.

Submitted by: Ralph Bagnall, Owner: ConsultingWoodworker.com


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