Getting Ready For A 3D Printing Future
Whether they are experimenting, prototyping, or producing final products, manufacturers are joining the 3D printing bandwagon. A survey of 100 top manufacturers by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) reveals that two-thirds are using 3D printing, some for rapid prototyping and others for production or custom parts.
The global market for 3D printers and services is expected to grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion in 2018, which represents a compound annual growth rate of 45.7 percent, says the survey.
While majority of the companies are still experimenting with the technology to determine how they can apply it to their production processes, the report states that as 3D printing techniques evolve handling of multiple materials and faster processes, they will find use beyond rapid prototyping.
Of the companies surveyed by PwC, almost 30 percent said they were experimenting with the technology; 25 percent said they were using it for prototyping only; 10 percent said they were using it for both prototyping and production. According to the report, some companies are building products through 3D printing that otherwise cannot be constructed using traditional methods, while others use it for final products or parts.
As manufacturing continues to grow as a share of applications, more companies will adapt and expand their uses of 3D printing technology, believe researchers For instance, another report by Lux Research expects the global 3D printing market to quadruple to $12 billion in the next one decade accounting for a projected 46 percent in 2025.
“More and more companies will move from experiments and prototypes to printing finished products as 3D printing expands its presence,” says the report.
For instance, Ford Motor is currently among the major manufacturers using 3D printing, for building and prototyping. While Ford has focused on prototypes printed in plastic until now, the company is looking to the future of its 3D printing strategy, when final production parts may be printed in metal.
The researcher believe in the near future, 3D printing will have some pretty hefty roadblocks ahead of it including high costs, time-consuming print jobs, and inability to mix materials in a single print job, among others.
PwC urges companies should expand the technology into high-volume use cases. “The industry should pivot to printing more fully functional and finished products or components in volumes that greatly outnumber the volumes of prototypes produced,” it says, as researchers note companies will eventually benefit from 3D printing’s expansion, as more complex parts can be printed, and produced ranging from clear dental braces to, eventually, a completely 3D printed airplane – in the future.
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