Manufacturing: The third industrial revolution
THE first industrial revolution began in Britain in the late 18th century, with the mechanisation of the textile industry. Tasks previously done laboriously by hand in hundreds of weavers' cottages were brought together in a single cotton mill, and the factory was born. The second industrial revolution came in the early 20th century, when Henry Ford mastered the moving assembly line and ushered in the age of mass production. The first two industrial revolutions made people richer and more urban. Now a third revolution is under way. Manufacturing is going digital. A number of remarkable technologies are converging: clever software, novel materials, more dexterous robots, new processes (notably three-dimensional printing) and a whole range of web-based services. Towards a third dimension The old way of making things involved taking lots of parts and screwing or welding them together. The applications of 3D printing are especially mind-boggling. Other changes are nearly as momentous.
Related: 3D Printing - FabLabs
• A Third Industrial Revolution