“3D printing is a gimmick” with no “real commercial value,” said Terry Gou, founder and president of the Taiwanese multinational, Foxconn Technology Group, one of world’s largest electronics manufacturing companies that makes among other gadgets the iPhone.
Foxconn has been using 3D printing for nearly 30 years, he explained to the Taiwanese media, but the technology wasn’t suitable for mass production.
You could print a phone with the technology, he said, but it would be a useless phone because the technology could not assemble electronic components. That process still required humans or specialized machines.
So the modernization of 3D printing didn’t mean “the advent of a third industrial revolution,” he said, thus debunking an April 2012 article in The Economist, titled “A Third Industrial Revolution.” It had hyped 3D printing as a technology that would launch the “digitization in manufacturing,” a revolution similar to the mechanization of the textile trade and the development of the assembly line.
But 3D printers remain a great device for kids who want to fabricate one plastic Darth Vader at a time. With the right materials, you can fabricate pieces that might be used in a firearm. They may be great for fabricating one-off pieces used in surgeries, or building prototypes, and the like. And of course, Foxconn and others have been printing circuit boards for decades. But that doesn’t justify that sudden hoopla about 3D printing companies.