The future is about “mass-customization”, says The Economist:

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.

…The factory of the past was based on cranking out zillions of identical products: Ford famously said that car-buyers could have any colour they liked, as long as it was black. But the cost of producing much smaller batches of a wider variety, with each product tailored precisely to each customer’s whims, is falling. The factory of the future will focus on mass customisation—and may look more like those weavers’ cottages than Ford’s assembly line.

The article is about 3D Printing, aka “additive manufacturing”, a process for building three dimensional objects designed on digital files. 3D printing technologies have boomed over the past few years in the production of all kind of products, from  jewelry to footwear, carsdrugs and lots more. If you dream to be the new Willy Wonka, you can also buy a chocolate making 3D printer for just above $4000.

Will 3D printing sweep away traditional industries and trigger a process of “creative destruction”? The Economist says that it depends on governments:

Consumers will have little difficulty adapting to the new age of better products, swiftly delivered. Governments, however, may find it harder. Their instinct is to protect industries and companies that already exist, not the upstarts that would destroy them. They shower old factories with subsidies and bully bosses who want to move production abroad. They spend billions backing the new technologies which they, in their wisdom, think will prevail. And they cling to a romantic belief that manufacturing is superior to services, let alone finance.

I do not agree on some points, but the article is interesting throughout.