Anyone Can Print

I come from the digital sector and now work in advanced engineering. We are on the cusp of a new frontier and what we’ve seen in the past 35 years in digital is starting to happen with engineering.

Back in the early noughties, the internet was accessible. In the 80’s the internet were rooms dedicated to simple tasks held in elite universities and government organisations. Only a few makers who had started on ham radio kits a decade or so before, in the unique community of the universities housing this wonderful technology, were able to start experimenting. Then along came the world wide web in the late 80’s this created an interface. Personal computing with the Macintosh saw this reach those outside of these closed communities. Dial-up, simply plugged into your phone line put anyone with a computer onto the internet. Then broadband, 3G, 4G and now 5G connectivity capability takes this access wirelessly. Microchip processing power increased and costs went down in the classic Moore’s Law model, you can carry a connected world around in something the size of a chocolate bar – not bad for 35 years.

The engineering space has got all the ingredients for a meteoric rise as we’ve seen with digital. The key to this is accessibility. Take a few examples:

  • Open source design software
  • 3D Printing on demand
  • Communities of engineers for hire
  • Accessible design and testing software start-ups
  • Incubators and Accelerators with manufacturing capability
  • Learning and research online
  • Connections with global suppliers
  • And no shortage of ideas, you can even print your own house ( 

The financial service industry (and others) are getting disrupted by new start-ups providing products and services not only to the end-customer but also to their competitors. Engineering, though noting the added complexity and risk of rocket design vs webpage design, is becoming accessible. With this comes disruption, creation, innovation and (dare I say it) the democratisation of engineering.

There is a note of caution here, we are all aware of the rise of the amateur and there are leagues between sketching a concept and launching a rocket so don’t expect home-made launchers to be popping up across the globe. As we saw with digital, the rise of the amateur does create a lot of noise, but with 99 noises there will typically be 1 product that we didn’t know we even needed in our lives.

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