There’s an old saying that when the time is right for trains people will invent them. This might seem like an odd saying at first. But it touches on an aspect of innovation which we seldom stop to consider. And this is the fact that creativity is often limited by the materials one has on hand.
People often assume that innovation is solely driven by creativity. That when a dream comes to someone he’ll be able to make it work if it’s at all technologically feasible. But the example of a train illustrates this point beautifully. We have records of wheeled transports moving along tracks which date back to 600 B.C. It’s clear that the idea for a train existed long before any modern incarnation of the idea.
But trains, as we know them today, didn’t come into being until the 1800s. The main factor came down to one simple component. Boilers simply hadn’t been efficient enough to work on a mobile platform. A steam powered train engine needs mobile and high pressure boilers for efficient operation. That’s the single important component that made trains a reality.
But what does this have to do with the modern world? We’re just as bound by this idea as our predecessors. What we can invent is largely dependent on availability of components. But this is where things are actually changing for the first time in modern history. In the past one had to wait for the slow march of progress before new parts innovated the industry.
But today manufacturing on demand has become a reality. This has begun to spark a whole new type of small scale innovation. In some ways it’s similar to the idea of inventors creating amazing works in their garage. But even the earlier days of the computer industry were limited by the available technology.
Today people have access to manufacturing techniques that can take plastic and form it into a wide variety of different forms. This might not seem like a huge breakthrough at first. After all, plastic has been around for a long time now. But one should really consider the earlier example of trains.
A more efficient boiler might not seem groundbreaking either. But that one step forward in a seemingly unrelated area created a whole new era for the world. Consider a hypothetical case of a young inventor in Melbourne. He’s just found out about plastic Moulding manufacture Melbourne style. A style which allows anyone with an idea in Melbourne to turn it into physical reality.
Our inventor has an idea for a lower cost medical device which could save thousands of lives. He’s been able to create the software and most of the digital components. But he can’t create the moving components or case by himself. And certainly not to the scale needed to market a prototype.
But by using a moulding service he’d be able to rapidly create the missing components for his invention. This is a hypothetical example. But the technology to create these custom components exists. As do people with a dream for the future. And for the first time in history people can easily transform those dreams into reality.