How will blockchain change manufacturing?
Joel Neidig, CEO and founder of SIMBA Chain, Inc., believes that in the future, manufacturing and distribution will look far different than today’s “centralized industrial complex,” and will take place instead at the point of use for the consumer. “With the advent and democratization of 3D printing in combination with a distributed decentralized digital thread using blockchain, the sharing of ideas, designs, and products can be consumed at the point of use while still maintaining intellectual property and providing the best price model for the seller and consumer,” says Neidig.
His vision made him a finalist for the Blue Sky David Dornfeld Manufacturing Vision Award with a paper outlining how it will work. Using the example of a farmer whose tractor breaks a pulley on the engine, he explained that, through blockchain, the farmer will not need to go to the local supply store to order this part and wait for delivery, nor will the store need to stock hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory or order parts from manufacturers. The store will have a single metal 3D printer and be able to print any part on‐demand from an OEM’s catalog. Next, the store will provide it within the same day to the farmer, and this will be the most competitively priced part available to the farmer.
Blockchain Benefits and How it Works
Importantly, blockchain will protect the intellectual property of all stakeholders. Blockchain is an example of distributed ledger technology (DLT) – a type of database that is spread over multiple locations that can be used like a digital ledger to record and manage transactions.
Because it is decentralized, when a user initiates a transaction, the ledger uses an automated process to ask other participants to approve the transaction without a third-party intermediary. Approved transactions are time-stamped, cryptographically signed, and added to the block. The new block then becomes part of the blockchain – an immutable record of all transactions of interest to the participants. Because the network validates every transaction, the blockchain holds a single version of the truth that all participants can trust.
Manufacturing Vending Machine
“…Models to 3D print various products from OEM catalogs can be secured in these digital blocks and only be accessed if payment is made. The file can be used once for printing on the machine on which payment is made. It’s almost like a ‘manufacturing vending machine.’ In 20 years, everything from consumer products to electronics to industrial components will be printed on‐demand via distributed, decentralized . . . agile manufacturing,” says Neidig.
About the Author
Tim Shinbara is Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology. He is responsible for strategic technology integration, international standards, and global collaborations regarding advancing the state of manufacturing technology. Mr. Shinbara focuses on activities related to research and development, industry adoption, and technology gap analyses. Mr. Shinbara is a Board Officer of the MTConnect Institute and has served on several committees and councils advising the public sector's manufacturing strategies, organization, and investment. He has over 19 years of combined IT/OT, manufacturing R&D, and tech start-up experience.