by Jenny Prabhu
Several times a week we hear on the news that car manufacturers are closing their Australian factories but retaining their design studio employees. Mining jobs are going along with many of the ‘old’ or traditional businesses. We also hear about the dreadful rise in youth unemployment, especially in our battling northern and western suburbs.
It is a reality that most of the easy options — out of school into a short TAFE course and into work — are fast disappearing, with more and more competition for fewer and fewer jobs.
This is due, in part, to new or ‘disruptive’ technologies.
For example, mobile phones and the internet already enable people to share their accommodation, their skills, their goods, their transport and more with other people. This reduces the need for hotels, taxis and the need to buy goods first hand and, in turn, reduces the reliance on the large and often multinational businesses that support them.
Technology is reducing the need for mining by re-using waste metal while at the same time enabling mining to be largely robotised and made cheaper. Rio Tinto has been a pioneer in Australia.
A variety of ‘e-medicine’ technologies available via your mobile phone already greatly reduce the need to visit clinics or be hospitalised. Constant new developments in various fields could lead to even more shake-ups in the job market.
A Melbourne-based private company, Anatomics Pty Ltd, has 3D printed the world’s first partial ribcage and sternum from titanium, which has then been implanted in a Spanish patient, half a world away.
In Geelong, listed company Quickstep Holdings in the Deakin University campus already supplies composite parts to Lockheed Martin for fighter planes, and is expanding into composite parts for automobiles.
3D printers and training in their uses is now available in many universities and also some schools as well as via private businesses that offer instruction across Melbourne. This enables people to create new businesses for a small initial cost for the printer (and ongoing costs for materials) and produces an inexpensive supply of everything from bikinis and T-shirts, plastic takeaway boxes and toothbrushes, to bionic ears and other human spare parts!
When the printing press was first developed, its ability to deliver information to the public was revolutionary. Additive manufacturing has the potential to be as revolutionary to the modern world as the printing press was in the past.
With traditional jobs disappearing and business models constantly evolving and adapting the future can seem a scary place. Yet the opportunities offered by new technologies can often offset their supposedly negative effects.
Like the technologies that seem to threaten our very existence, we too need to adapt to survive. These days you can jump online to earn a degree in just about anything you can imagine. You can network with diverse communities and discuss passion projects and potential business ideas. You can 3D print specialty components of artisanal quality and distribute them using source coding.
With car manufacturers closing their doors and mining magnates wallowing in the bust phase of a boom-and-bust economy, it might be time Australia and Australians invested in the future. While a brave new world of additive manufacturing may seem beset with obstacles, it is also a world full of opportunities.