Failure is a prerequisite for success. So, fail faster with 3D printing!

Failure is a pre-requisite for success.  So, fail faster with 3D printing!

We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison’s efforts to invent the first commercially viable light bulb.  In failing several thousand times to create the incandescent light bulb, he eventually was successful.  However, what most people don’t know about the story is Thomas was competing with 23 other inventors that were perfecting their light bulb designs and it took about 3 years before he began manufacturing commercial lamps using carbonized Japanese bamboo as filaments.  He wasn’t the first inventor of the light bulb and he wasn’t the last but his ability to learn by failing faster and innovating quicker earned his place in history.

Students exiting college often enter into the ‘real world’ with a twisted sense of failure.  A terribly bad grade on a test may cripple the semester.  An experiment in class gone awry earns an unrecoverable F.  They watch reality TV shows that fire people and kick them off the island for failure.  Often our young men and women begin associating the idea that “failure is fatal”.  Is this really the message we are trying to ingrain in the next generation?  Well, the answer to that is both yes and no.

For Doctors, the result of a botched surgery can be fatal.  For an Engineer, a poor design could mean lives lost in a vehicle, a plane or on a bridge.  For an Inventor, allowing failure to overwhelm him or her will certainly bring innovation to a halt.  The end result of a final effort can be disastrous but we mustn’t ignore the need for many preliminary failed efforts that lead toward the assurances that they will get it right when it’s most important.  So “yes” we need these people to succeed when it counts.  And “yes” we also need them to fail in a consequence-free environment as a pre-requisite for success.  So where and how is this possible?  In a world that changes constantly and rewards speed, what technologies and methodologies could allow them to fail faster in an affordable, safe, experimental environment?  I’m here to tell you, 3D printing plays a contributing role here.

The ability to build prototypes, create physical models, and use inexpensive replicas speeds up the innovation process in a safe and consequence free setting.  Some companies and organizations that have embraced 3D printing as a solution to accelerate this learning toward success:

Magna Closures – With a 3D printer, the reduction in the time and cost of proposing new designs has enabled Magna to increase the number of product development projects by a factor of five without increasing staff.

Aerialtronics – Taking control of its own 3D printing requirements has drastically reduced lengthy lead times and cut its R&D time by about 50 percent.

Sheppard AFB – Direct Digital Manufacturing (3D printing) saves $800,000 and three years development time over a four-year period.

Gas Turbine Research Establishment – FDM (3D printing) cuts time to prototype jet engine from one year to six weeks.

Jacobs Institute – Based on 3D printed model, surgeons were able to pre-empt potential complications and devise a more optimal means of treating an aneurysm.

So, it would appear that we are in the “failure business”.  Not as an end-result but rather as a pathway toward success.  The payoff is meaningful when we view failure as learning experiences and chase failure aggressively with the assistance of technology.  In the areas of Aerospace, Automotive, Consumer Goods, Medical and more, 3D printing is no doubt a technology enabler toward faster success. 

Yours in Success,

           – Nate

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