Additive manufacturing (AM), commonly called 3D printing, is a $4 billion business set to quadruple by 2020. One day, manufacturers may print everything from cars to medicines, disrupting centuries-old production practices. The Federal Aviation Administration recently certified the first 3D-printed part for GE commercial jet engines, and companies like Ford Motor Company are using AM to build products and prototypes.
But the new technology poses some of the same dangers unearthed in the electronics industry, where trusted, partially trusted, and untrusted parties are part of a global supply chain.
That finding, along with initial recommendations for remedies, was reported by a team of cybersecurity and materials engineers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering in JOM, The journal of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.
The UK’s innovation agency are running a competition that will award £4.5 million ($5.82m) to, “projects that stimulate innovation in additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing.” I spoke with the lead technologist for high value manufacturing at Innovate UK, Robin Wilson, to learn more. In this interview he explains how to access funding for 3D printing projects, what sectors should expect to see the biggest revenue in the next years, where there are opportunities for businesses and where are the 3D printing job opportunities for individuals.
“We think AM could be worth £1 billion ($1.29b) per year incremental business for the UK by 2020,” he tells me. Wilson is well suited to this role having worked with additive manufacturing for more than 20 years and is no stranger to innovation. During his time at automotive maker Land-Rover he worked on, “a fore-runner of Industry 4.0.” He explains, “we CAD modeled the whole car and how it would be put together in real time to not only get the product design right but the manufacturing environment could also be developed in parallel.” This was more than 2 decades before the current interest around intelligent factories.
Even in its relative infancy, 3D printing has created an enormous list of possibilities: dental aligners to straighten your teeth, unique toys for your children, inexpensive custom prosthetics for people with limb deficiencies, and restoring lost or destroyed cultural artifacts. It can also be used to create untraceable firearms and an endless supply of copyright infringements.
Just as when the internet developed, 3D printing is opening doors to amazing opportunities and benefits – as well as some undeniable dangers. Also called “additive manufacturing,” 3D printing’s enabling of truly decentralized, democratized innovation will challenge traditional legal, economic and social norms. Potentially faulty products and counterfeit goods are again among the leading concerns. Some people are already calling for preemptive regulation of 3D printing on those grounds.
ANOTHER milestone has been passed in the adoption of additive manufacturing, popularly known as 3D printing. Daihatsu, a Japanese manufacturer of small cars and a subsidiary of Toyota, an industry giant, announced on June 20th that it would begin offering car buyers the opportunity to customise their vehicles with 3D-printed parts. This brings to drivers with more modest budgets the kind of individual tailoring of vehicles hitherto restricted to the luxury limousines and sports cars of the super-rich.
The service is available only to buyers of the Daihatsu Copen, a tiny convertible two-seater. Customers ordering this car from their local dealer can choose one of 15 “effect skins”, decorative panels embellished with intricate patterns in ten different colours. The buyers can then use a website to tinker with the designs further to create exactly the look they want. The skins are printed in a thermoplastic material using additive-manufacturing machines from Stratasys, an American company. The results are then stuck on the front and rear body panels.
3D printing is a “game changer” for manufacturing, but its real impact on supply chains will take years to play out, experts say.
According to the 2016 MHI Annual Industry Report, Accelerating change: how innovation is driving digital, always on supply chains, only 17 percent of nearly 900 supply chain professionals surveyed said they believe that 3D printing can be a competitive advantage, and only six percent consider it disruptive; 45 percent say it will have some impact.
However, adoption rates are expected to rise significantly. In the survey, conducted with Deloitte Consulting LLP, roughly half (48 percent) of respondents felt that 3D printing will be adopted in their supply chain over the next six to 10 years, compared with a 14 percent adoption rate today.
The potential of 3D printing is continually pushed to the edges of imagination and possibility in almost every industry to which it is applied. At a glance, 3D printers will eventually become as common as an oven in a kitchen, as standard as a 2D printer in every office building and as important as a forklift at a construction site. According to a recent press release, Global Futurist Jack Uldrich is set to give a keynote speech in Charlotte, NC, in which he will address several revolutionary trends in the real estate and evolutionary industries.
Among these trends, additive manufacturing – more commonly referred to as 3D printing – continues to yield some of the most tangible and groundbreaking results. Watch Uldrich below at a conference in 2015, as he speaks about previous technologies’ revolutions in the industry.
Manufacturing is an ongoing business throughout the world. The goal of any production company is to save time and produce more revenue. Car manufacturing companies, for example, extend a lot of labor usage to produce even one car. There are many different ways to attempt some control and efficiency over the production cost, however. German technology has come up with some new ways of cutting back on production time and costs.
By analyzing and predicting the necessary needs before starting the production of a vehicle, the proper plans can be put in place. Changes can also be initiated in the original plan if needed. All of this can be done before any manual labor takes place, therefore, saving time and energy. There will be no need for the “practice” round in the shop. The technology will take care of the prep work.
Other digital help will come in the form of planning for customer satisfaction. The quality of products can be determined and improved, as well as better pricing options. Digital decision making with algorithm based programs can analyze quickly and efficiently. The development of products in the workplace will change forever.
It’s not unreasonable to expect that 3D printers will become a staple on factory and job shop floors in the near future. But will they ever replace factories and job shops entirely?
Ten or twenty years ago, many engineers would have answered enthusiastically in the affirmative. Nowadays, this possibility seems much less likely.
To be sure, additive manufacturing is still an exciting prospect for many engineers—especially the latest generation. However, several factors have conspired to restrain the once unbridled enthusiasm surrounding this technology, including cost, speed and quality of 3D-printed parts.
These barriers could be overcome as additive manufacturing technology improves. However, even if this becomes the case, efficiency might still dictate that the best way to use 3D printing is as a starting point.
Your company may be looking at how you can leverage 3D printing. But are you viewing this disruptive technology through all the lenses you should be?
If you’re a manufacturer, you may be wondering which products you can produce through additive manufacturing, or which products your competitors are thinking about producing in this way.
If you’re not a manufacturer, you may be thinking that 3D printing doesn’t really apply to your business, except that some products you buy in the future will be produced on 3D printers.
But you might want to take a broader view of 3D printing. Because the true disruption of additive manufacturing won’t be in individual products or spare parts. Instead, it will be in business models and markets. Even if your company has nothing to do with manufacturing, 3D printing could affect you in profound ways.