Earlier this year my 10 year old daughter had a school art project to sculpt a figurine out of clay. She came up with this beautiful ballerina figurine and scored exceptionally good marks. On bringing the statue home to come show us the head got broken off, and then the cats managed to bump it off the dresser table breaking the arms off. After gluing the pieces back together a number of time, we decided something needed to be done.
3D Scanning to the rescue
With the availability of affordable desktop 3D Scanners like the EinScan-S from Shining3D, I was able to capture a detailed 3D scan of the figurine in just a few minutes. This allowed me to have a fully digital model available which could be used to replicate the figure at any time.
The EinScan-S desktop 3D Scanner is a very affordable device able to capture very good detail on small to medium objects. The scanner uses structure digital light to project patterns onto the part to be 3D scanned and captures the distortion in the patterns to build up the 3D models. A part is simply placed onto a rotating base which allows the scanner to capture geometry from all sides. The software is simple and easy to use and will allow you to create a fully water tight 3D model suitable for 3D printing.
3D Models can now be easily shared using popular 3D model hosting sites such as Sketchfab. Sketchfab is similar to other foto and video sharing sites, except you can share links and view 3D models this way. You can send a link to someone and they can easily view the 3D model in their web browser or download the 3D model to print out on their own home 3D printer. Imagine being able to send your child's artwork to a family member perhaps living in a different country.
3D Printing Technologies
Various 3D printing technologies are available to replicate the 3D scan which can then be used for various applications. In this case the ballerina was 3D printed on the Asiga Pico2 HD DLP 3D printer. This precision machine uses digital light to project light patterns into a vat of resin material, which cures the liquid into a solid state. Extreme high detail can be achieved suitable for use in the manufacture of jewelry items.
Now we are able to take what was a very delicate clay sculpture created with love by a child, and preserve the work by turning this into a precious and unique piece of jewelry, a silver pendant or perhaps a charm bracelet. Using standard jewelry manufacturing techniques, like lost wax casting this piece can be created in any precious metal like gold, silver or titanium.
Think about the endless possibilities this opens up. Not only is the artwork preserved digitally forever, but it can now be used in a number of processes to create master pieces. Perhaps even a full sized statue which will go down in history forever.
Learn about how 3D printing is becoming a common method for rapidly manufacturing cost effective grips, jigs and fixtures.
With many manufacturing companies constantly working to improve productivity and lower costs, lean manufacturing techniques such as the implementation of grips, jigs and fixtures in a production line help achieve these goals. The high level of customization and complexity that AM allows for in a design coupled with the speed and accuracy that parts can be made, make it an ideal solution for producing grips, jigs and fixtures.
This article will discuss the benefits of 3D printing grips, jigs and fixtures and present common applications where 3D printing has been successfully implemented. This document will also offer several design rules for engineers to follow when designing grips, jigs and fixtures to be manufactured via 3D printing.
An assembly jig (white) printed on a 3D printer holding an injection molded part (dark grey)
What are grips, jigs and fixtures?
Grips, jigs and fixtures are workpieces used to aid in the machining, positioning and assembly of parts in many facets of manufacturing. Grips, jigs and fixtures can be made from a range of materials (typically steel or aluminium) and are CNC machined to a high tolerance to allow a part to accurately locate into a desired position. Jigs and fixtures can also include attachments that allow the part to be secured in place. The high level of customisation and accuracy required for grips, jigs and fixtures usually result in long production lead times.
Grips: The part of an automation process that is in contact with the workpiece typically used to transfer or orientate the part. These are often custom designed to match a parts geometry.
Jigs: Holds the workpiece in place and also guides the cutting tool (e.g. a drill jig used for a guiding drill bit into the correct spot). Jigs are typically not attached to the machine and can be easily manipulated to align with the cutting tool. Accuracy of part does not depend on operator.
Fixtures: Locates, holds and supports the workpiece securely as machining or assembly takes place (a vice is a simple fixture). Machining fixtures are generally secured to the machine to withstand the large machining forces the part is subjected to. The accuracy of part still depends on the operator or assembler.
Jigs are typically made of very hard materials as they must guide a tool to a specific location. Considering this and the materials that are most commonly used in 3D printing, jigs will not be discussed in this article.
Advantages of grips, jigs and fixtures
The use of grips, jigs and fixtures allows for many benefits including:
Benefits of using 3D printing
The main benefit of 3D printed is the reduction in cost. The majority of savings come from the reduction in high machining costs. Typically a grip or fixture would be sent away to be machined by a highly skilled operator on a CNC machine over a number of days. With 3D printing, once the design of a 3D model is complete the file is sent electronically to the nearest printer, quickly analysed and printed on machine that requires very little human interference. Grips and jigs made via 3D printing are also produced with much cheaper materials compared to traditional grips and fixtures further reducing the cost.
The other main benefit of 3D printed grips and fixtures is the speed at which they can be produced. Machining of complex metal geometries takes significant planning and highly skilled CAM designers and machine operations. This can result in the lead time for CNC machining taking days or even weeks before a part is completed. By using 3D printing to replace an aluminium assembly tool (see image below), a well-known car manufacturer was able to cut lead time by 92% from 18 days to 1.5 days.
A FDM printed assembly tool for accurately placing maker badges on vehicles
3D printing offers a vast range of materials over a range of technologies. Engineering material properties such as chemical resistance, flame retardancy, heat resistance and UV stability are now widely available in the 3D printing industry. Parts can be produced or finished in many colours and surface finishes. The polymeric materials used in 3D printing also mean that damage to parts (that come in contact with the grip or fixture) is limited during handling and assembly when compared to more traditional metal fixtures.
Grips and fixtures are regularly manipulated by workers. The majority of the materials used in 3D printing are lighter than aluminium reducing the load on workers and improving safety. Industrial FDM parts are not printed solid but rather filled with infill further reducing the weight of parts.
The speed that 3D printing can produce parts gives designers much more freedom to optimise a design through several iterations. 3D printing technologies also allow for complex and ergonomic designs to easily be produced improving worker interaction and comfort.
Several 3D printing technologies are able to produce to a high level of accuracy (Industrial FDM - ±0.2 mm, DLP Moving Light - ±0.02 mm and Premium Laser Sintering - ±0.1 mm). DLP Moving Light and Premium Laser Sintering can also produce fine and intricate details as well as functional connections like snap fits and interlocking features.
Common applications and solutions
Case Study - Dixon Valve robotic grips
Dixon Valve’s US manufacturing facility in Maryland, USA, deals with thousands of different valves, fittings, and gauges. Each product line requires custom equipment, including tooling and grips to hold specific parts efficiently. To reduce cost and save time Dixon Valve make use of robotic arms in production line cells for part transfers. The custom grips attached to the end of each robotic arm used on the line require high strength, need to be user friendly and safe, have chemical resistance due to the working environment and wear resistance from repeated use. After comparing traditional manufacturing techniques to 3D printing options a set of Onyx jaws were designed and printed for the end of each robotic arm. The time and cost savings are summarized in the table below.
Article sourced from 3DHubs.com
Written by Ben Redwood
***Article adapted for local conditions and availabilities
Prodways Premium Laser Sintering
This article discusses the use of 3D printing to print molds for low run injection molding. Design considerations, materials, molds configurations and a comparative case study are all included
Injection molding is the most common method for producing plastic parts. While traditionally 3D printing was only used for verifying prototypes of parts that were later going to be injection molded, developments in printer accuracy and materials now allow 3D printers to print injection molds directly.
This article will discuss the benefits of 3D printing low-run injection molds and give advice on the best mold configuration, mold materials and how to design a 3D printed injection mold.
What is a low-run mold?
Injection molding is the process of injecting (under pressure) a thermoplastic or thermoset in a melted liquid form into a die. The plastic fills the empty cavities of the die and cools until it has solidified. The solid plastic part is then ejected from the die and the process is repeated again.
The high initial setup costs associated with injection molding do not make it cost effective at low volumes. The high level of design, engineering and machining required to produce an injection mold can result in the cost ranging from R50,000 to R500,000. Because of this injection molding is typically used to produce high volumes (sometimes in the millions) of the same part at a low cost. Low-run injection molding typically applies to runs of 10 - 1000.
An industrial injection molding die used for producing a large number of parts
Why use 3D printing?
Whether a mold is going to be used to make 20 part or 20,000 parts, historically molds needed to be machined to a very high tolerance from a solid block of metal (most commonly aluminium or steel). These materials provided good wear resistance to the repeated injecting, opening and closing and temperature gradients that they were exposed to during the injection molding process however do require large investments at the setup stage.
For low-run molding, wear resistance is no longer a critical factor. 3D printing technologies are able to produce parts to a high accuracy with excellent surface finish. This property coupled with temperature resistance and design freedom mean that 3D printed molds are now a viable method for low-run production injection molding. 3D printed molds also allow verification of injection mold designs before investing in expensive metal molds.
3D printed molds are best suited for:
3D printed injection molds are produced in 2 standard configurations.
1. Mold inserts for aluminium frames
This is the most common 3D printed mold configuration and generally produces more accurate parts. The mold is 3D printed and inserted into aluminium frames which provide support against the downward pressure and heat of the injection nozzle. Aluminium frames also help prevent the mold from warping after repeated usage.
A 3D printed injection mold inserted into an aluminium frame
2. Stand alone molds
This mold configuration does not require investment in an aluminium frame as the whole mold is printed. The disadvantage to this approach is that these molds use more material, which increases print cost and time, and may be more prone to warping.
Designing an injection mold for 3D printing
The 3 main material characteristics that will govern whether a 3D printed low run injection mold will work are:
A 3D printed injection mold made from ProdWays ceramic filled resin
Specific technical design of gates, runners, air vent etc. is out of the scope of this article. A quick internet search will reveal a large amount of information on mold design. This post by Seattle Robotics is a good starting point for those new to injection mold design.
Some general rules that can be followed when designing 3D printed injection molds include:
Designing parts for injection molding
As with conventional injection mold design consider:
Draft angle design for injection molding
Flash is the name given to the material that comes out between the halves of the mold during the injection process. This generally occurs when the two mold halves do not mate perfectly together, are not perfectly flush and flat or the mold is overfilled. Runners are used in mold design to help reduce the likelihood of flash occurring.
If designing for an aluminium frame, add 0.125mm of extra thickness to the back of the mold plates to account for compression forces and to ensure a complete seal. Increasing clamping force in the vise can also help mitigate flash, as can polishing the mold’s split plane to give it as flat a surface as possible.
Good mold design and a flat mold face reduce the likelihood of flash occuring
Due to the fragile nature of the materials used to 3D print injection molds when compared to traditional mold materials, struggling to remove a part from the mold can lead to rapid mold deterioration. Including a release compound on the mold cavity surfaced before the injection stage can assist with part removal.
Case study - plastic motor fitting
This case study will compare manufacturing a custom plastic fitting for a motor housing. The requirements of the design are:
Industrial FDM ABS part - Industrial FDM is a form of 3D printing that has high repeatability, produces part with a high accuracy and is able to print parts in batches. The cost of the ABS filament used in FDM printing is typically around R300 - R600 per kg. The main restriction for any part produced via FDM printing is anisotropic performance. Parts are significantly stronger in one direction meaning a designer is required to have a good grasp on the loads the part will be subjected and the orientation the model is printed at.
3D printed DLP MovingLight injection mold + ABS injection molded part - DLP High Temp resins are able to produce functional injection molds with a high level of accuracy. They are best suited for low level production runs. UV resins retail for around R1 500 - R2 500 per litre. A bench top injection molding machine has been used for this example with the 3D printed molds inserted into aluminium frames.
Traditional injection molded ABS part - Traditional injection molded parts have a very high level of accuracy, excellent surface finish and a very high level of repeatability. The main downsides to traditional injection molding is the high initial setup cost and the number of design conditions that must be implemented in the design of a part (draft angles, constant wall thickness etc). ABS pellets used in injection molding sell for approximately R20 - R30 per kg.
A summary of the prices (based on online quotes) to manufacture the ABS fitting using the technologies discussed above is summarised in the table below. All prices are excluding shipping.
Article sourced from 3DHubs.com
Written by Ben Redwood
***Article adapted for local conditions and availabilities
3D PRINTING OF INJECTION MOLD FOR SMALL SERIES
With our industrial high resolution 3D printers using MOVINGLight® technology, you can improve responsiveness and reduce costs for the production of your injection molds for plastic car parts such as door handles, clipping elements, aerators, etc.
Additive manufacturing materials developed by Prodways for injection molds resist the pressures involved with the process and are durable enough to be used in the injection molding from tens to hundreds of parts, depending on the injected material.
You can 3D print different iterations of a mold in very short time to test your prototype and speed up the time-to-market of your products or to produce small runs.
INDUSTRIAL HIGH RESOLUTION 3D PRINTERS USING DLP MOVINGLIGHT® TECHNOLOGY
Our industrial high resolution 3D printers use DLP MOVINGLight®, a revolutionary 3D printing technology patented by Prodways. This additive manufacturing solution is based on the polymerization of photosensitive resins using moving DLP (Digital Light Processing) UV rays, delivering a unique combination of high resolution and fast throughput.
MOVINGLight® high resolution 3D printers are particulary well-suited for producing prototypes requiring crisp details and smooth surface, but also end use industrial applications such as dental models or surgical guides, investment casting, injection and blow molding, thermoforming molds, shoe sole molds, and jewelry casting.
The Prodways-exclusive MOVINGLight® 3D printing technology delivers:
Unparalleled resolution – as fine as 32 microns per pixel
High productivity – up to 10 times faster than other market technologies
Large production platforms for high throughput and printing of large parts
Innovative resins materials (acrylates, epoxy or hybrid) for a large range of applications
"My PICO2 HD has printed three 14 hour long jobs so far with flawless results straight out the box - never had that before with a printer. Really pleased!" Eddie J Fisher, Zealot Miniatures
Company: Zealot Miniatures Limited
Location: Dorset, UK
Reseller: Bracon, UK
3D Printers: PICO2 HD, Pico Plus27
Printing: Scale Models
1. How long have you been using your Asiga 3D printers?
Since July this year.
2. Why did you choose Asiga?
We chose Asiga for the detail that their printers can achieve as well as the reliability of the 3D printer. We use 3D printing as the foundation stage to all our operations. So it is important that we could avoid disruptive printer downtime.
3. Which features do you like most about your Asiga 3D printer?
Very tolerant of files. Composer seems to successfully slice a model even if there are a few mesh errors, this saves time cleaning up 3d files.
Both printers have worked great straight out the box. Asiga allow control over all the print settings and parameters, so you have the option to adjust and produce even better results.
4. What benefits does your Asiga 3D printer bring to your production processes and business?
The speed of prints means output has been greatly improved. We were using our Solidscape 3Z Pro for all our prints, but some builds would take 100 hours+ for large models. The same model can now be printed in 14 hours on our Asiga printers.
5. Are you using a third party resin? If so which one and why?
I use:PlasGRAY seems to have the best tensile strength of any material we have tried, so is well suited to large prints. NextDent Model can produce great details on small parts (and is impossible to photograph well..)
6. If you could introduce a new feature to Asiga's 3D printers or software, what would it be?
I am always looking for the highest resolution possible which I am sure Asiga are working on.
7. Would you add another Asiga 3D printer to your production process?
We have already ordered another Asiga printer which will arrive in a few weeks.
With thanks to Eddie Fisher from Zealot Miniatures for your time providing insight into your company and how our 3D printers are being used.
See how Asiga 3D printers can deliver significant benefits to your business. Take a look at our brochures by industry here.
The ProMaker P1000 3D printer is Prodways’ entry-level industrial-grade SLS 3D printer. (Image courtesy of Prodways.)
French 3D printer manufacturer Prodways has made it its mission to become the third leading player in the 3D printer industry, after Stratasys and 3D Systems.
To do so, the company, a subsidiary of the publicly-traded Groupe Gorgé, partnered with Farsoon Technology, a Chinese manufacturer of selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers, and acquired a startup, Norge Systems, that, at the time of acquisition, was working toward developing an entry-level SLS machine.
Last year saw the release of the “Prodways powered by Farsoon” line of plastic and metal sintering systems and now, at the RAPID 3D printing trade show, the results of that second deal are starting to appear with Prodways unveiling what the company is billing as the first industrial SLS system priced at under EUR€100,000 (USD$113,170), a comparatively low-cost option for a typically high-priced technology. To top off the release, the company has also announced a partnership with BASF, the largest chemical producer in the world.
The Prodways P1000 3D printer
The new ProMaker P1000 is the result of Prodways' acquisition of Norge Systems, an Italy-born, England-based, three-person startup that originally sought to crowdfund the construction of two low-cost SLS 3D printers, the Ice 1 and Ice 9. Impressed with the technology and to secure an internal SLS team, Prodways purchased the firm in March of 2015, bringing on board its founders Alessandro Facchini, Luca Veneri, and Stefano Rebecchi to develop the P1000 system.
Standing with the ProMaker P1000 3D printer, Prodways’ SLS engineering team, from left to right: Alessandro Facchini, Luca Veneri, and Stefano Rebecchi. (Image courtesy of the author.)
In an interview at RAPID 2016, the Norge team, now heading up Prodways' SLS division, said that, in many ways, being bought by an established company was a dream, particularly considering the significant investments Groupe Gorgé has been making in its 3D printing subsidiary. Suddenly, the three entrepreneurs had all of the resources necessary to turn their low-cost technology into a powerful industrial platform.
One of the features made possible with the new resources at their disposal was the inclusion of a smart temperature-control system into the P1000. Facchini explained that this system, capable of providing thermal stability, is key to producing quality prints. With 10 lamps and four infrared sensors in the build chamber, the machine is able to monitor the temperature of the powder and print area and then maintain a consistent temperature.
Prints made with different PA powders on the ProMaker P1000 3D printer from Prodways, including small cubes with fine, 1 mm holes. (Image courtesy of the author.)
Heating the material before printing and while printing also ensures an unsintered powder recyclability rate of greater than 40 percent, Veneri added. He said that this prevents the powder from being “shocked” by the heat of the printing process that typically causes the powder surrounding the part to change chemistry and become unusable in subsequent prints.
The coating system for the P1000 is modular, so that users can control powder distribution by replacing the existing roller-style mechanism for a blade, ideally for more even layering. A built-in touchscreen is meant to make for greater ease of use. Like its other machines, Prodways' ProMaker P1000 is also open to third-party materials.
According to the Prodways SLS team, the graphics processing unit that powers the 3D printer’s software has been improved to handle more data more quickly. They said that the software, too, has been optimized for an easy user experience, ideal for the entry-level target customer. Other features of the P1000 include:
A build volume of 300 x 300 x 300 mm (11.8 x 11.8 x 11.8 in)
A build rate of 0.5 l/h (30.5 in³/h)
Scanning speeds of 3.5 m/s (137.8 in/s)
Layer thicknesses as fine as 0.06 mm (0.002 in)
Compatibility with a wide range of materials, including carbon-based, glass-based and mineral-based polyamide powder
Some of the cost-saving measures implemented to bring down the price of the machine include the quality of the laser and mirror galvanometer for directing the laser onto the print bed. A single metal case for the frame of the P1000 was also used, which is both more affordable and lightweight than if the system were to feature many different casing components. The electronics for the printer were consolidated onto a single, custom board, reducing the cost further.
Rebecchi pointed out that the goal for the Prodways SLS team was not to build the most complex and powerful machine they could, as they would cannibalize the higher-grade “Prodways powered by Farsoon” line. Instead, the mission was to make something that was as robust as possible at the lowest price possible. In turn, they hope to open up a new market for low-priced SLS systems. While it may not be as quick and powerful as the next system up, the P2000 SD, the P1000 was designed to produce quality parts, according to the team.
The team explained that the P1000's ability to use the 10 different grades of PA12, PA11 and TPU sintering powder produced by Prodways truly adds to the industrial capabilities of the machine. The one powder it can’t handle, however, is PA6, a polyamide material developed in partnership with BASF. Used in a number of industries, such as the automotive and electronics sectors, PA6 may replace the use of metal for producing large parts with lighter weights.
Developed in 2015 with Farsoon Technology and Varia 3D, the BASF PA6 powder has been engineered to have mechanical resistance, thermal stability and hardness close to PA6 parts made with injection molding. Prodways' ProMaker P2000 HT is the only system suited to handle the material, as it prints at a higher temperature of 220 °C.
The P2000 HT 3D printer, capable of 3D printing with PA6 from BASF. (Image courtesy of the author.)
The release of any new machine or material naturally gives a company something to boast about. The claim that it is the “first” industrial SLS printer under EUR€100,000 might be open to debate, as there are at least three other SLS systems that are much more affordable: the SnowWhite from Sharebot priced at EUR€40,000, the Sinterit Lisa with a cost of USD$10,000 and Sintratec’s S1, priced at EUR€9,000. The question is whether or not any of them are robust and capable enough to be considered industrial machines.
Both Sintratec and Sinterit’s technologies can only process a single variety of nylon powder. The powder ranges of these machines are also far fewer than that of the P1000. The Lisa, for instance, only features a 5W laser, while the SnowWhite uses a 14W laser, compared to the P1000’s 30W laser. While these less powerful systems may still fall above the USD$5,000 price tag that Wohlers Associates uses to classify a printer as industrial-grade, it’s likely that the P1000 has greater industrial-grade capacity.
Because Prodways and Farsoon are established manufacturers with greater resources and access to expertise, the P1000 can process a larger variety of powders with greater resolution and reliability than these other systems. The aforementioned price for the P1000, when it hits the market at the end of this year, is far higher than Norge Systems’ original predicted price points for its 3D printers, prior to acquisition, estimated at around GBP£19,900 (USD$29,000) for their larger Ice 9 and GBP£7,500 (USD$11,000) for the Ice 1. It is clear, however, from the specifications that, for that price, customers likely are paying for an industrial-grade machine.
PRODWAYS EXTENDS ITS MARKET COVERAGE TO SOUTH AFRICA WITH CAD HOUSE
At the edge of Electra Mining Africa, the largest mining, industrial, electrical and power trade show taking place in Joannesburg September 12-16, Prodways, subsidiary of Groupe Gorgé, extends its market coverage to South Africa by signing a new partnership deal with CAD House.
Founded in 2010 by Bernhard Vogt, who has more than 20 years’ experience in automotive and aerospace design, CAD House has grown from a small home-based business to a strong, established company offering turnkey solutions, with a full complement of sales, technical and services staff in South Africa. CAD House has successfully delivered thousands of 3D printers, ranging from a variety of desktop models to professional 3D Printers and industrial solutions. Furthermore, the CAD House product offering has expanded to include leading 3D scanning technologies and state-of-the art 3D design, inspection, and reverse engineering applications.
CAD House’s Center for Advanced Rapid Production features the latest premium laser sintering technologies and is capable of manufacturing on-demand, tooling-free end-use parts that look, feel and function like any traditionally manufactured component.
Prodways and CAD House announced that they have entered a partnership to introduce the complete range of Prodwasys 3D printing solutions in the Southern African market, from exclusive MOVINGLight® technology — providing a unique combination of high resolution and fast throughput — to its latest laser sintering range, which delivers state-of-the-art industrial production capabilities with high precision and accuracy.
This new partnership with CAD House will enable Prodways to strengthen its worldwide sales and distribution network, offering customers operating in South Africa a complete range of 3D printing solutions. It also underpins Prodways’ drive to become a key player in the global 3D printing sector, throughout the entire value chain, incorporating the development of cutting edge technology, the supply of high quality materials, and the provision of engineering and manufacturing services for parts production.
At the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos a key topic is focusing on the “Digital Transformation of Industries”. The fourth industrial revolution is imminent. It goes by the name “Industry 4.0” and is expected to fundamentally change, among other things, the production methods and business models currently used in industrialized countries.
Experts estimate that Industry 4.0 will result in virtual data merging with real production equipment. The resulting “smart factory” will bring customers and suppliers closer together, as production orders will be sent by the customer directly to the machine, and the production data will be transferred to the distribution partner in real time. Manufacturing will become leaner and faster and respond to customers’ needs.
Additive Manufacturing – 3D printing in metal
A key component in making Industry 4.0 a reality are machines that can produce the desired components faster, more flexibly and more precisely than ever before. Less prototype construction, fewer dies, less post-processing. In future it will have to be possible to turn data into components and products at an incredible speed.
3D printers give a sneak preview of what this type of production might look like. The first of these devices were created in the 1980s, and nowadays you can buy entry-level devices for less than 700 Swiss francs. But so far, 3D printers have generally been used to make objects from plastic. The mechanical properties and the temperature stability of these objects are pretty limited as a result, which is why they are mainly used for illustrative purposes, i.e. as visual models. This is why 3D printing is often described as “rapid prototyping”.
For the fourth industrial revolution, the technique used for 3D printing will have to go one step further: from rapid prototyping to Advanced Manufacturing, the production of lasting and functional components with defined mechanical and thermal properties: products made from metals or ceramics.
Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, is working on this topic with various research groups. One group is examining the optimized use of lasers, while another is researching new types of alloys that this technology makes feasible for the first time. A further lab is using Additive Manufacturing to build new, geometric forms that were not possible up to now with the traditional production methods available.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to create a change I call “smart revolution” - when society is able to simplify and do more incredible things with less.
This change will bring about an end to wasteful means of production, transform the education system, spur commerce among different communities by virtually eliminating trade bottlenecks as will be seen in e-commerce, improve governance and transparency, and lead to the emergence of new industries. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is set to revolutionize the way we work and learn across the entire African community.
Agriculture, the engine of our economy, will be revamped. Information on farming has been limited, market price information has previously not been available and we have therefore had to take a gamble on demand and supply information, all of which has negatively impacted my community, a community that is 80% dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.
With this revolution, we shall see less obstacles for farmers and others working in agriculture. Farmers will be able to access much more information than ever before, and thus expand the market for their produce. This will be able to play with demand-supply information so they can produce what is needed, helping to eliminate waste and introduce more efficient methods of distributions.
Many spheres of our life will be shaped by this revolution, leading to redesigned industry sectors, such as e-health, e-government, e-learning and e-tourism to mention but a few.
However, as an African youth, I define the Fourth Industrial Revolution as “people and skills” while looking at it as a double-edged sword, with good outcomes only if it is well-harnessed. It is a challenge for my community. I believe that technology is evolving too quickly and could undermine our traditional values, while incoming income disparity keeps widening the digital divide, which is unsustainable on every level.
African society is on a collision course with the developed world, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution will either reverse this trend or exacerbate it.
Automation has been at the heart of every industrial revolution, and this latest one is no different. Our survival, therefore, will be knowledge-based. But whether Africans have the knowledge or means of acquiring knowledge remains an important question for the continent. To date, Africa has failed to improve its education system, which is reflected in its high levels of illiteracy compared to the rest of the world.
To manage the risks and reap the rewards of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Africa should focus on designing an African-focused strategy geared towards the common goal of transforming its entire education system. And this should start with educating the educators, many of whom are not tech-savvy, which is an enormous shortcoming. Unless we equip our teachers, we shall witness an increase of people in the job market with obsolete skills - a huge risk for our economy.
Next in line, authorities should look at policies that promote the participation of citizens in the policy making process. Ignoring this is a setback to development.
Meanwhile, the gender gap in the African community is large, and this divide poses an immense threat to productivity. All stakeholders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution should bear this in mind, and make sure the participation of women does not lag behind that of men.
Last but not least, the rewards of the Fourth Industrial Revolution shall be realized only if young people are inspired to take charge. Partnerships between adults and young people can lead to success where programmes designed by adults for youth have failed.
Recognition of the significant asset that young people represent, and the fact that our future is tied to our development, are essential ingredients for economic and social stability both today and tomorrow.
This article was first published on Medium, as part of the World Economic Forum’s essay contest for Davos 2016. The shortlist will be announced later this week.
Author: Charisma D. Kakuru, co-founder, African Youth in ICT