For business executives, separating true technological breakthroughs from wishful thinking is inherently challenging. As Danish physicist Niels Bohr stated, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” Most of us can recall examples of misguided technology predictions great and small, such as the Internet bubble and the Segway. Perhaps the best example today of an innovation whose surrounding hype may be obscuring its substance is 3D printing. It thus provides an ideal case study on the importance of applying time-tested forecasting tools before getting too caught up in new-technology excitement. Claims that 3D printing (also known as digital printing) is poised to shake up the manufacturing industry in dramatic fashion have been on the rise. A September 2013 report from investment advisor the Motley Fool even went so far as to assert that the new technology will “close down 112,000 Chinese factories…and launch a 21st-century industrial revolution right here in the U.S.A.” As much as we would like to see manufacturing return to Western shores, we’re a bit less sanguine than the prognosticators. Indeed, before we send pink slips to millions of Chinese workers, we need to step back and analyze 3D printing through the lens of the experience curve, and how… Read full this story
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