Additive manufacturing is a revolution whose time has come.
Its transformative approach to industrial production has revolutionized how parts and systems are made. Additive manufacturing, particularly 3D printing, has reduced manufacturing complexities to zero.
3D design and printing have ushered in a new era of product development. Time of concept to market has been significantly reduced as have development costs.
This industrial manufacturing technology has several advantages to its competitors. Namely, faster production, improved accessibility, tangible design and product testing, cost-effectiveness, less waste production, and many more.
With 2018 being a year of growth for 3D printing and design services, 2019 looks to be a year of continued burgeoning demand.
Below highlights key trends expected to solidify 3D printing as a commercially viable, industrial manufacturing technology.
1. Application-Driven Innovation
While there has been a significant focus in additive manufacturing to develop more capable machines and increase manufacturing capabilities, 2019 looks to innovate with a more application-driven approach.
Rather than furthering 3D printing technologies, a paradigm shift has occurred. Now, the wheels are in motion for manufacturing to identify the right applications for 3D printing. Understanding which applications benefit most from 3D printing will mean real added value and increase demand.
When the hearing aid industry adopted the transformative power of 3D printing, the change occurred rapidly. Three-dimensional printing rapidly transformed both prototyping and production. Over 95% of hearing aids today are custom-made using 3D printing technology.
This example highlights how an application-driven approach will drive the additive manufacturing industry forward. Expect to see more investments in application development as more industries unlock the benefits of 3D printing technology.
2. A Stronger Focus On Software
Despite 3D printing being realized as commercially viable, production speed has remained a significant barrier. To enhance 3D printing’s adaptability at a mass scale, increasing production speed is crucial. Software innovation is key to lowering this barrier.
As an essential pillar for a scalable additive manufacturing process, 3D printing software is becoming increasingly advanced. Software developments that will see a significant upswing in activity are simulation software and workflow automation.
Boosting Productivity With Software
The growth of both software initiatives in 2019 is essential to expanding 3D printing beyond prototyping into production.
The growth of simulation software in 2019 and beyond will result in better process reliability. Moreover, better 3D printing simulation software will improve quality control and repeatability, reduced costs, and optimization of production.
The commercialization of additive manufacturing lies in workflow automation. When workflow automation is optimized, failed builds can be prevented. This will ensure production costs and scrap rates are drastically reduced, while increasing profitability.
Greater enhancements in software will improve the efficiency of the entire process—from the preparation phase to production and post-production. By simulating and automating key tasks, 3D printing will emerge as a significant segment for many industries.
3. The Proliferation Of Metal 3D Printers
In recent years, two critical changes have occurred in metal 3D printing to increase its viability from prototyping to production: updated technology and advancements in software.
As previously explored, advancements in software will determine additive manufacturing capabilities for true production. Better workflow management and simulation software are key drivers in adoption and accessibility.
A Divergence In Metal Printing
The release of more affordable metal 3D printers means a reduced financial barrier to entry. Metal printers once cost north of a million dollars. Today, companies can invest in a metal printer that has a sub-$200,000 price point.
More Affordable Metal Printing Machines Suggest Increasingly Widespread Adoption
The ability to implement metal additive manufacturing at a large scale will improve production volumes. The commercialization of metal printers will transform the future of mass production.
With high-grade plastic and composite printing already gaining acceptance in the manufacturing sector, confidence in additive manufacturing will only continue to rise with the inclusion of more affordable metal 3D printing systems.
4. The Rise Of Smart Factories
The year 2019 is expected to be the period when more companies unveil smart factory solutions. With smart factories characterized by adaptability, driven by connectivity, digitization, and advanced technologies, 3D printing systems enable more agile manufacturing.
Three-dimensional printing unlocks the potential of these smart factories in manufacturing industries such as automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods.
With access to 3D printers, manufacturers can work with new composites or bio-materials to enhance production flexibility. Smart factories equipped with 3D printing systems will demonstrate a more autonomous, connected, and agile manufacturing process.
Three-dimensional printing as a digital manufacturing technology will transform factories and contribute to a more fully integrated manufacturing process with full connectivity and data processing capabilities.
5. Continued Expansion Of Material Options
With the additive manufacturing industry heavily focused on production for 2019, material expansion will see increased demand. Evidence of this can already be seen within the fashion and healthcare industry.
Leading manufacturers in the athletics world are experimenting with 3D printing to design state-of-the-art customizable footwear. The shoe sector is tapping into the 3D printing material library to design footwear based on a person’s biomechanical data.
In the healthcare industry, the discovery of organic materials holds promise for 3D organ printing. Implantable 3D-printed organs could revolutionize regenerative medicine and provide greater demand for additive manufacturing technology.
Printing For The Future
Burgeoning demand will see 2019 as the year 3D printing technology matures.
This phase of maturity will contribute to 3D printing seeing expansion into new industries and specific niche markets. New hardware, advancements in software, and the discovery of new materials will continue to push 3D printing as a viable solution for mass production.
Expect to see the growth of 3D printing in 2019 and beyond disrupt multiple markets.