ITAM Processes Must Evolve with Technology

Mature IT Asset Management programs distinguish themselves from novices by evolving alongside the technologies they manage. The relatively recent 3D printer is one technology that is evolving with the announcement of the new “Replicator.” Currently 3D printers, unlike their ancestral 2D printers, do not require IT Asset Management because the memory is stored not internally but in in the laptops and desktops to which they are attached. However, it is the IT Asset Manager’s responsibility to anticipate and prepare for industry change, and one of those changes might be the amount of ITAM attention 3D printers really need.

Current 3D Printers
3D printers receive blueprints directly from software on a computer. However, because printing a 3D object can take hours, and sometimes days, the majority of users prefer not to be tethered to the machine. They want to be able to unhook their computers so that they do not get slow and to take laptops out of range. Because of that, many opt to use SD cards. The user puts the code into the SD card, slides it into the slot, hits a few buttons on the 3D printer’s LED screen and then goes about their day. This complicates IT Asset Management because now there is something to track. Trade secrets and intellectual property could be on that SD card and where the 3D printer goes, it goes. Therefore, that particularly 3D printer would require IT Asset Management.

Future 3D Printers
The Replicator 3D printer appears to make objects out of thin air. A certain threshold of light displaying an image is shone on rotating resin and that resin solidifies into a shape that could be either rigid or flexible. There is a fitting reason why “Replicator” is this 3D printer’s name. Fictional tech from the popular science fiction TV and movie franchise Star Trek inspired the inventors. In the stories, the “matter converter” machine creates and recycles almost anything including food, water, clothes, toys, and tools. Undoubtedly, the IT Asset Mangers working behind the scenes of the Enterprise routinely created new policies and processes to keep up.

When the Replicator goes public it could come with a SD card, or even with an internal hard drive. Although it is impossible for an IT Asset Manager to predict the Replicator’s makeup, a vigilant ITAMer will be prepared for such a scenario. Traditional 2D printers are ubiquitous in organizations and 3D printers might not be far behind.

Modern, non-fictional technology is not yet able to create Jean-Luc Picard’s hot Earl Grey tea. However, if and when technology catches up, what will IT Asset Management look like? 3D printers are evolving, but is ITAM?

References
[1] A real-world Star Trek-like “Replicator” makes objects appear out of nowhere, Maria Dermentzi, 2 Feb. 2019, https://mashable.com/video/star-trek-like-replicator-3d-printing-with-light/#JklN8V2D1Zqs

[2] New 3D printer uses rays of light to shape objects, transform product design, Kara Manke, 31 Jan. 2019, https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/01/31/new-3d-printer-uses-rays-of-light-to-shape-objects-transform-product-design/