2015: Future Trends and Predictions

January 23, 2015

Convergence is the word for 2015 — Changes in technology are happening at a staggering pace and will cause disruption in industry after industry. Last year I discussed advances in 3D printing from metal parts to food to organs, the adoption of virtual reality allowing people to connect and interact on the 2D web in a 3D shared virtual world, along with online supply chains giving buyers the ability to connect with suppliers to procure products and services faster and cheaper.

Now let’s fast forward into 2015 and beyond. You’ll notice that these three trends from last year blend into my next predictions. Expect these technologies to continue to gain popularity as prices drop and technology improves.

Robotic 3D printing

I walked into my friend’s house the other day surprised to see this box shaped robot vacuuming their floors. Within a few minutes it parked itself in a charging station. Robots are invading our lives.

If you’ve had the opportunity to walk through an automotive facility or automated machine shop, robotic welders seem to outnumber humans. It’s called “lights out manufacturing”. Now combo a robot with 3D printing capabilities and we’re embarking on a whole new way to build things — like 3D printed cars, houses, bridges and consumer products. Hear about it and watch it in action by clicking here. And watch as a Chinese company 3D prints houses by clicking here.

Laser scanning

The term “point clouds” will become as popular as 3D printing. We’re seeing a huge trend in the AEC (architectural engineering construction) space, as these highly precise lasers capture billions of scanned points from “as built” buildings to help create 3D CAD models in half the time. These points can also be viewed in 3D color and even look like actual photographs so stakeholders can see what their building will look like, digitally, before it’s actually built. Translation software takes those scanned points into 3D CAD products, allowing designers the ability to create intelligent 3D models, which people can virtually walk through and even 3D print.

Take it a step further and mix in a drone with a mini laser scanner hooked up to it to capture entire cities from the sky. Some 3D lasers can ever go under water to scan the ocean floor and objects, like Autodesk showed at their recent user Conference in Vegas. See it here by clicking here. This opens up a whole new world of opportunity and exploration in the oceanography world. There will be machines at retail locations and amusement parks where people can scan their entire body to create a 3D printed selfie! See an example by clicking here.

Which leads us to our next wave …

Augmented virtual reality

In my article last year on 2014 trends, I discussed virtual reality (VR) being all of the hype, and it has come to fruition. Now, let’s combine VR with augmented reality where you will be able to marry digital content with the real world. For example, take a facilities team at a construction firm who has to maintain equipment in that building (heating & ventilation, boilers, electrical and plumbing). These service teams, armed with a tablet, can now walk through the hallways of that real building to see every piece of equipment behind those walls, in real-time viewed in 3D intelligent CAD models. Facility managers will be able to pinpoint where problems occur without having to tear down walls and guess. Take that a step further to wastewater and underground equipment and the application is limitless.

Nanotechnology materials and products

Altering the chemical makeup of materials at the molecular level creates an entirely new species of products. Nanotechnology is altering the lifespan of products using plastics, paint and even ink. Products will have longer shelf life and greater resistance to human and environmental factors. There will also be the ability to print microprocessors that are paper thin, then embed them in electronic devices, print electronic connectors in magazines as illuminating advertisements, and even create devices in our bodies to combat diseases.

Product customization

My 13 year old son and I have contests online to see who can design the ugliest basketball shoes, where we customize everything down to the shoelaces. I saw this wave coming as early as the Dell days when you were able to fill out a checklist of items (product configurators), and BOOM, you had your very own personalized workstation or laptop.

From shoes to phone cases, people love to make products their very own. Combo that with 3D printing and the other topics discussed above and you’ll understand how interconnected and interdependent these technologies will become. See how Amazon creates this experience by clicking here. I’m even envisioning a day when there will be 3D printed tattoos. Just make sure you spell your spouse’s name correctly.

* All company brands and product names are used for identification purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective owners.

Ken is an advisor in the CAD-CAM Manufacturing and Construction industries with a strong understanding of the entire design to manufacturing workflow process. Ken created CAD/CAM Connect (www.cadcamconnect.com) an online network of trusted vendors — connecting buyers to top suppliers helping companies solve problems and get products to market faster to win new business. For more information, you can contact Ken by calling 1-(844) CADCAM1 or by email at ken@cadcamconnect.com

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