What is the future of 3D printing? Is 3D printing the next big thing?
If you are into 3D printing and you are wondering if it is still worth it five or 10 years from now, then you are just on the right page! 3D printing has a bright future ahead and I guarantee you that there are a lot of things to expect from it especially in the areas of medicine, manufacturing, and construction.
Continue reading to see the future of the 3D printing industry. Traditional manufacturing improves over time as 3D printing technologies evolve. In the next section, I will give you an overview of the different test cases in 3D printing technology and how 3D printing is used in manufacturing, medicine, and construction.
Is 3D Printing The Future of Manufacturing?
Is there a demand for 3D printing? I often hear this question from people who are having second thoughts about going full force with 3D printing, but I’m pleased to tell you that yes, there’s a future with 3D printing because the additive manufacturing industry is growing.
3D printing technology enables companies to design and produce new customized products to meet the growing demand for personalization. Consumers prefer products that are perfect for their size, taste, and shape. They want everything to be about them that’s why 3D printers are experiencing a surge in sales.
In 2018, the additive manufacturing industry only had a market size of $8 billion. However, Interesting Engineering predicts that by 2026, it will expand to a massive $51 billion dollars as it has an annual growth rate of about 24-26%.
Vyomesh Joshi, President & CEO of 3D Systems, found it amazing how 3D printing contributes to the manufacturing process today. It used to be a prototyping enabler, but over time, it has found its place in the production environments. Today, millions of parts are 3D printed. So, for those wondering if it’s the future of manufacturing, it probably is!
“3D printed clips, jigs, and fixtures are used in factories around the world. We are seeing additive manufacturing produce parts with excellent properties from metal alloys or industrial plastics in volume,” he said. “The progress of the past year is positioning the 3D printing industry for incremental, intentional digital innovation, based on the four pillars of progress: productivity, durability, repeatability, and total cost of operation.”
Greg Marke, CEO of Markforged, is also convinced that 3D printing is the future of marketing because, for him, manufacturers are increasingly finding places where they can apply 3D printing in their business to enjoy positive ROI.
“Many used Markforged this year to prove out that ROI in creating tools and fixtures. Other companies had success in other pockets of value. It’s no longer an exploration of emerging technology. Now it’s simply about applying 3D printing in places where it saves manufacturers money and enables them to move faster,” Mark said.
Generative design and 3D printing are deemed to be a perfect match because additive manufacturing enables a new level of design freedom. You can use it for complex models that require a more flexible manufacturing process. However, additive manufacturing is not always the ideal technology.
“A lot of parts are being manufactured with 3D printing that could be done more effectively using traditional manufacturing methods,” said Peter Rogers, APAC Additive Manufacturing Product Specialist at Autodesk.
“Alternatively, though, with the right design, traditionally manufactured parts could be done a lot more effectively, increasing part performance, and reducing waste by using additive manufacturing. It is not about pushing all designs to additive at all, rather making sure that the right design is going into the right manufacturing technology to achieve the most desirable outcome.”
Although there is no doubt that additive manufacturing is one of the best manufacturing techniques especially if you are into generative design, you should take note that it’s not always the best technology.
Nora Toure, the Business Development Director at Sculpteo, a leading digital manufacturing specialist based in Paris and San Francisco, and the founder of Women in 3D Printing also shared her thoughts about the future of 3D printing.
She found 3D printing a transverse technology that is applicable to almost all industries and at the same time, 3D printing is a manufacturing tool. In the next five years, she is seeing a lot of full cross-technologies innovation using additive manufacturing technology. She is positive that it will make huge contributions in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors.
“3D Printing will also continue to “simply” enable people to improve their lives and businesses, such as Afoma’s: 3DAfrica is working with Afoma, the owner of a hair salon in Nigeria to design a 3D printed rechargeable, detachable, cordless hair dryer. Now, instead of traveling to China every year to purchase in bulk, she produces these in her shop, prints and customizes as needed, and sells to other cosmetologists,” said Nora Toure.
Future of 3D Printing in Construction
3D printing technology is also expected to make waves in the construction industry. 3DNatives noted how construction giants are quickly noticing the potential of 3D printing technology and its impact on the future of construction.
In fact, the concrete 3D printing market is expected to reach $56.4 million in 2021.
Additive manufacturing is popular in the construction sector because 3D printing concrete is fast enabling people to save a lot of time. Overall, 3D printing technologies can speed up a 2-week job in just 3-4 days. Also, It reduces risks of injury at work and doesn’t require as many people, so you can save on labor.
“The reduction of the hardship and the risks is a reality, we realized rays of 3.8m of height without any scaffolding. In addition, the construction site is very quiet,” said Benoit Furet at the University of Nantes as quoted by 3D Natives.
Another expert believed that the price of 3D printers and materials will drop but some additive manufacturing technologies might not make it.
“Some AM technologies might disappear from the market, also there will be a consolidation as too many players are around in that field. Mechanical construction will change its way of thinking and so more and more parts will be designed for 3D printing,” said Martin Schöppl, Managing Director at Genera. “Prices for printers and materials will drop significantly.”
Yes, 3D printing is economical! With additive manufacturing, fewer materials are used compared to the traditional manufacturing processes which also reduces the environmental impact as less waste is produced.
“With an increased geometric mastery, we can build optimized shapes to limit the amount of materials used,” said Romain Duballet, one of the co-founders of XtreeE.
Founder and CEO of Russian company Apis Cor Nikita Chen-iun-tai is positive that 3D printing can be a solution to the housing crisis, so they are developing a project for it. They are hoping to thoroughly test it in different parts of the world to demonstrate its feasibility.
“We believe that more and more construction companies will adopt this technology, as it is already the case for some today,” Chen-iun-tai said.
While 3D printing technology has a promising contribution to the construction and there are already 3D printed houses, there are still caveats in owning a 3D printed home.
“The main difficulties come from the fact that the process of 3D printing buildings is not today recognized as a construction method by many codes and standards bodies. As the printed structures are not traditional, the calculations of resistance and resistance in time are difficult to realize, that is why the habitable works will have to be tested on a case by case basis at the beginning,” said Axel Thèry of Constructions-3D.
The construction industry is slow when it comes to adapting to change because of its low tolerance for risk, but additive manufacturing is here to stay. Large 3D printing machines can produce larger parts with multiple materials. It will enable more modular building components and the plumbing fixtures and concrete panels could be replaced by 3D printers that operate 24/7 with less labor and repeatable quality, according to CRH Americas.
Future of 3D Printing in Medicine
Additive manufacturing is likely to play a bigger role probably in regenerative medicine and bioprinting solutions.
Joshi is excited about the possibilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. He predicted that by 2029, the market will mature through the adoption of additive manufacturing technology from the early majority to the late majority.
He also believed that materials science will be a driving force in the growth of applications addressed by additive manufacturing. He was confident that the materials innovation will accelerate and a new variety of materials will emerge, including tough materials, high-temperature materials, biocompatible materials, high-performance aerospace materials, bioinks, ceramics, cermets, and composites. As the market manufacturer continues to push original equipment manufacturers (OEM) for new materials to make new applications possible.
“What I am most excited about over this next decade is the potential for AM technologies to redefine patient-specific healthcare through bioprinting. We will not only be able to impact patients’ quality of life – saving lives with bioprinting will become a reality. Breakthrough material speed, size, and resolution will open new opportunities for regenerative medicine including applications in tissue regeneration and organ creation,” he said.
Philipp Schlautmann, executive director at 3D-Figo, is also hopeful about the future of 3D printing in the field of medicine. He predicted that complex motion devices with integrated control electronics and actuators printable in one operation will be possible.
“I have extremely high expectations in the field of medicine and medical technology, where great progress for implants made from the body’s own cells will reduce a lot of misery through 3d printing,” Schlautmann said.
Yes, 3D printing has a bright future especially when it comes to producing biological tissue implants. Several experts in the medical field are expecting it to make a huge change in bioprinting especially that there is an organ shortage that can be solved in the future by bioprinting organs.
“Bioprinting is likely to be a huge field for the future of medicine,” said Roger Markwald, Ph.D., director, Cardiovascular Developmental Biology Center, Medical University of South Carolina. “There are too few organ donors to meet the needs. At least 21 people die each day because of the lack of implants.”
There are already biomaterials using the current 3D printing technology, but there is a fatal flaw. So, they are working on bridging the gap and finding a solution to that.
“The Achilles heel of tissue engineering today is the need to create vascularity in the structure, and that has been the focus of what we have been trying to do,” he added.
Bioprinting is enabled using biopaper made of bioresorbable hydrogels. Meanwhile, bioink is made from 300-micron diameter spheroids that contain between 8,000-12,000 autologous adipose-derived stem cells. Markwald is hopeful that in the future, bioprinting will allow the use of several different cell types to create complex tissue units.
“Eventually we will be able to make functional hearts or livers. What we can print right now are cardiac patches and small- to medium-sized blood vessels, skin tissue, soft tissue (adipose, muscle) for reconstructive surgery, and vascularized micro-organs that can be grown in a bioreactor and used to supplement the function of a diseased organ like the liver,” he added.
Other 3D Printing Applications
3D printers are experiencing massive growth in the 3D printing community and market. In fact, 3D printer manufacturers are enjoying increasing profits because additive manufacturing has proven to be beneficial in the past years.
3D printers are on-demand in various industries including automotive and aerospace startup businesses. If you are looking for a solution to speed up the manufacturing process of your business while cutting production costs, you should consider using 3D printers. Additive manufacturing technology offers a lot of benefits in improving manufacturing techniques.
The aerospace and defense industry is among the earliest to adopt 3D printing technology. It started using additive manufacturing in 1989.
In fact, it represents 16.8% of the $10.4 billion additive manufacturing markets, according to AMFG.
Several key industry players including GE, Airbus, Boeing, Safran, and GKN use the advancement of additive manufacturing within aerospace and defense. The said companies use 3D printing to bring functional prototypes, tooling and lightweight components.
The aviation industry uses 3D printing technology for several reasons. It helps improve their products using better manufacturing techniques.
First, it reduces the weight of an aircraft and significantly reduces its carbon dioxide emissions, fuel consumption and payload. Also, it uses material efficiently which means less waste compared to the traditional manufacturing method.
Another key benefit of 3D printing is part consolidation — the ability to integrate multiple parts into a single component reducing the number of parts needed to simplify the assembly and maintenance process. Lesser parts also mean lesser time for assembly.
Aircraft has an average lifespan between 20 and 30 years making maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) an important function. Metal 3D printing technologies like Direct Energy Deposition are used to repair aerospace and military equipment. Turbine blades and other high-end equipment can also be restored and repaired by adding material to worn-out surfaces.
The aircraft industry uses 3D printing to manufacture rockets and rocket engines. The technology enables engineers to innovate the design of rocket parts and manufacture them in a shorter time frame.
The 3D printing technology made a huge impact on the automobile industry. In the past few decades, many automobile companies and manufacturers have used 3D printers for prototyping.
Then the use of 3D printers progressed as carmakers started to use it to 3D print automotive parts. The global automotive industry is set to reach 114 million worldwide sales annually by 2024.
3D printing offers many benefits in the industry that can easily be evaluated in terms of performance and characteristics. It can replace the expensive and long lead-time CNC production. 3D printing plastic parts are cheaper and faster. It also cut the production cost and budget especially when manufacturing complex parts.
Meanwhile, in-house 3D prototyping helps control Intellectual Property (IP) infringements and information leaks. 3D prototyping reduces time on all stages of the manufacturing process. Also, unlike traditional manufacturing which allows a variety of materials, this approach allows lower consumption of materials and wastage.
Overall, 3D printing technology allows for a more efficient car model design, prototyping, testing and production with the help of industrial 3D printing software.
3D printing processes can be complex, but it is very helpful in various companies. In fact, a number of businesses are already using additive manufacturing technology in improving their operations and products. So, don’t be surprised to find a growing number of 3D printers in the market.
Additive manufacturing technologies will have a huge contribution to the automotive, aerospace, and healthcare industry. The 3D printing experts are all very positive that 3D printing will continue to flourish in generative design, supply chains, manufacturing technology, and more.
Also, additive manufacturing offers a lot of benefits in the industries by cutting production costs, manufacturing time, and labor. It uses less material and reduces waste. More importantly, it is very promising when it comes to saving lives through bioprinting.
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