Many interesting articles have already been written about the impact of additive technology on research and production departments. Saving time and resources, reducing waste, increasing productivity, extremely easy prototyping and making corrections are all significant advantages of this technique. However, a rarely discussed topic is the impact of 3D printing on the job market – what changes its growing popularity and how it affects the number of jobs in industry
Additive technology changes the way a product is made: it modifies the chain of production processes and, consequently, the employment structure in a plant. This opens up many opportunities, but also poses a number of challenges for companies, regions, and even entire countries
Opportunities and challenges of additive technologies
Unfortunately, it is very likely that 3D printing will significantly reduce the number of jobs in the future. The nature of this technology does not allow for one-to-one replacement of vacancies in companies. This situation will require extensive efforts by entire regions to maintain needed jobs. All countries in the world can be divided into three categories in this situation:
- Countries with a high chance of retaining or even increasing the number of jobs – this category brings together countries that industrialized long ago, with a developed but uncontinued industrial tradition, which will be able to restore pre-existing jobs;
- Countries atrisk of losing the number of industrial jobs – these are mainly countries where the economy is based on manufacturing by traditional methods
- Countries without a significant industrial base but with a potential market – these countries have a chance to jump right into the so-called fourth industrial revolution.
A specific feature of additive technologies is their decentralized organization and the related trend towards regionalization. This makes it possible to create specialized jobs in areas that have weaker industrial structures
Changing the way manufacturing works
The development of new technologies will not only change the places where production takes place, but will also affect the activities that are in demand. Already, new manufacturing orders are relying more on engineering and structural changes to objects to accommodate 3D printing technology. The trend indicates that the share of logistics activities will decrease. Changing the proportion of how manufacturing departments work requires mastery of not only 3D technology, but also laser techniques, 3D scanners, and an understanding of new materials. Design and engineering domains also require adaptation
Additive technologies have significantly accelerated the product life cycle. Consequently, manufacturing, redesign, and customer support are even more tightly coupled, and the various, related engineering work directly affects each other. Designers of the fourth industrial revolution should break away from the constraints of traditional manufacturing principles, which are now obsolete. Also, the boundaries between product development and the design stage itself will blur. Cross-border transportation and the global supply chain will become less important, and the so-called last mile will play a key role in product delivery. The field of reverse engineering will also become increasingly important. Time will tell whether it will be the service providers who take on the development of this industry – as they did with 3D printing – or whether the equipment manufacturers themselves will offer this service
3D printing will not only change production methods, but also the number and types of jobs. Though of course, not all traditional positions will be replaced by those related to additive technologies. Other jobs will be enriched with new responsibilities – thinking in categories related to 3D printing will most likely be required at every stage of production. The specificity of the product and acceleration of its subsequent phases of life require great flexibility and the combination of many different fields of engineering.
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