3D Printing and Planned Obsolescence


The capability for product personalization and customization in the Third Industrial Revolution offers a way to eliminate the traditional roll-out of “this year’s model” and the concept of planned obsolescence that is behind the current economic cycle:


As an example of the elimination of planned obsolescence, just look to Jay Leno’s use of 3D printers to restore his outdated steam automobiles to service even though parts have been unavailable for the better part of a century. Manufacturers would not even need to store copies of all possible parts, they would simply download the appropriate component design and print out a replacement when needed.

Jay Leno using his 3D Printer

Beyond simply taking advantage of sustainable construction methods, 3D printing could provide manufacturing that could re-use existing materials and components, with “this week’s model” body style or other personalized and customizable attributes added to retain its interest to the consumer could easily impact the cycle of reinvestment for major-purchase goods.


By displacing this endless cycle of “keeping up with the Joneses” with new seasonal models we would reduce fundamental goods production in some trades but also reduce endless consumer debt accumulation to keep up with cyclic durable goods purchasing.


The future could well be focused on industries that retain investment in fundamental components, adding updates and reclaiming materials for future modifications and re-use in the place of outlets endlessly pushing the next year’s or next season’s product lines – whether that be automobiles, houses, furniture or clothing.


I will be talking about 3D printing and its capabilities in my upcoming book, 3D Printing for Dummies, due out this Fall.

← To Part 1: 3D Printing and Production

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