Terry Gou, the president of Foxconn Technology Group, has poured cold water on the notion that 3D printing is the third industrial revolution. Calling it “a gimmick” to Taiwan media earlier this week, Gou referenced a 2012 Economist article that described 3D printing as the next great thing.
“3D printing is a gimmick,” Gou said. “If it really is that good, then I’ll write my surname ‘Gou’ backwards [from now on].”
Earlier this year President Obama stated that he believed that 3D printing is the next revolution in US manufacturing, but Gou doesn’t think so.
Although he said that Foxconn have been using 3D printers for nearly 30 years he was not optimistic about it’s future, claiming it was not suitable for mass production and did not have any real commercial value. To bolster his argument he cited the example of a 3D printed mobile phone, which would not be a usable model as the printers would not be able to assemble the electronic components. He also mentioned that 3D printers were unable to printing materials such as leather which leads to unsustainable products which could not be mass produced.
Gou is convinced that 3D printing will not usurp current mass production techniques any time soon even though Asia is leading the way in investing in this new technology.
Gou is correct in many respects, but the future of 3D printing will take production away from the single source manufacturer and place it in the home with customers who will download and print their consumer products. In the example of a mobile phone, manufacturers like Foxconn, will shift focus to assembling and supplying only the electronics, and consumers will download the phone case design to customize and print themselves.
This low-volume customization is where a 3D printer will shine and will allow major consumer electronics brands to let their customers design and customize the way their products look to suit their home and their personal style.
Foxconn was founded by Gou in 1974 and now operate 13 factories in China, employing over a million workers. It’s estimated that Foxconn assemble around 40 percent of all consumer electronics products sold. It’s major customers include Acer, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, Dell, Google, HP, Microsoft, Nintendo, Nokia and Sony.