Specialized production manufacturing drives 3D printing in three industries, but prototyping will remain the key use case in more mainstream applications.
DETROIT — The 3D printing industry continues to grow by developing specialized applications for three industries: aerospace, medical and automotive. But widespread adoption across industries is still a long way off.
Several announcements made at the Rapid + TCT 3D printing industry trade show and conference reinforce the growth in innovation for 3D printing’s main industries. The announcements included the following:
Smile Direct Club, a service that sends teeth alignment devices directly to consumers, will use HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing machines to produce individualized molds.
Medical startup Marvel Medtech will use the XJet Carmel 1400 3D printer to produce ceramic cryotherapy probes that can identify, freeze and destroy breast cancer cells when they are first detected.
The Renault Formula One racing team will use 3D-printed parts from Jabil Inc., one of the world’s largest contract manufacturers.
So, how can something almost 30 years old actually be a NextGen technology? Is that actually possible? Yes, especially if you’re talking about 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing.
Well known in automotive and aerospace circles, 3-D printing has long been standard fare there for prototypes and continues to slowly come into its own for certain, limited production parts. But it has never realized what anyone would call critical mass. However, that is changing as 3-D printing makes headway in industrial and consumer goods as well as health care. That means it’s still early for 3-D printing, making it a true NextGen technology.
“We are moving beyond science experiments and out of the hype cycle,” explains Scott Schiller, global head of customer and market development for 3D printing at HP. “In fact, there was a rapid pivot in 3D last year as we saw a fundamental shift in how people look at the technology for practical applications. And that shift is having an enormous and real-time impact on its adoption.”
Interest in 3D printing technology is increasing across a variety of industries, as well as among hobbyists using it for their own projects—but this interest has not yet translated into mass adoption, according to the Q1 2019 3D Printing Trends report, published by 3D Hubs on Wednesday.
The year 2018 saw a great deal of investment in 3D printing, according to the report, with companies interested in the technology investing in startups, while established firms like BASF acquired startups to bolster their own portfolio.
At this year’s International Symposium for Additive Manufacturing, around forty presentations covered the latest research results and industrial developments, as well as the challenges additive manufacturing (also called 3D printing) needs to overcome before it becomes firmly established in industry. For example, Stefanie Brickwede, the Head of Additive Manufacturing at Deutsche Bahn, presented innovative approaches to additive manufacturing for mobility, especially rail traffic, in her lecture, “We Print to Drive: Mobility goes Additive”. According to Ms. Brickwede, the use of additive processes will result in high savings in the multi-digit million range in warehousing and spare parts procurement. She underlined that additive manufacturing is of the upmost importance for Deutsche Bahn, especially in the management of spare parts for older trains.
“Tackling the materials and processing challenges”. Under this motto, 300 international experts from research and industry met at the 3rd International Symposium Additive Manufacturing in Dresden, Germany. At this year’s event, around forty presentations covered the latest research results and industrial developments, as well as the challenges additive manufacturing needs to overcome before it becomes firmly established in industrial production and for supply chain applications.
As dark clouds gather over the global economy, manufacturers find themselves in the crosshairs
Long supply chains and a dependence on frictionless trade leaves manufacturers at risk to rising protectionism and slowing global growth. But a surprising form of technological defence could be available to them in 3D printing. Here are five key ways in which the tech could upend the economics of traditional manufacturing, while spurring innovation and cutting pollution.
3D printing offering economies of scale
Perhaps the biggest benefit of 3D printing could be its potential to cut costs, says Galina Spasova, senior research analyst at IDC. 3D printers reduce the number of steps required to assemble a finished part or product, speeding up the manufacturing process for some products, she says.
Of course, this is just one example. The scope of the changes now underway are too vast to be recounted here. Rather, this article points to a specific business model innovation – 4IR Production Platforms – that can help players across the value chain adapt to and prosper in the Fourth Industrial Revolution using the power of digital technologies.
Why do we need 3D printing? is unfortunately not an uncommon response from Scottish companies when I ask if they’re interested in using additive manufacturing in their business.
Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing as it’s fondly known, is a process of making three-dimensional solid objects from a digital file. The creation of a 3D-printed object is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.
Companies wrongly presume they have to be involved in one of the ‘sexy’ manufacturing industries like aerospace, F1, automotive or medical to benefit or use this technology, which is far from reality. Additive manufacturing was used significantly in the creation of concept and prototype models for new designs and products.
The manufacturing industry has always been directly impacted by the technological advancements of its time. From the advent of coal and steam as new sources of energy, the cotton gin and its impact on cloth manufacturers, and the assembly line for Ford, each has altered and benefitted the industry. As we enter Industry 4.0, a new batch of technology is shaping how, and how fast, we make goods. 3D printing is one such technology that is providing tangible benefits to those who implement it.
Desktop 3D printing, where users can design and print right at their desks or on the factory floor, has seen tremendous growth in the past several years, moving from strictly prototyping to actual production. The technology has opened huge possibilities for manufacturers, including quicker time to market, a reduction in costs, and an overall improvement in factory productivity
Trade shows and conferences are time- and energy-intensive expeditions often requiring significant travel and expense. The best events prove their worth in bringing together the people who make an industry and the decision-makers who drive it — and in additive manufacturing, Germany is proving to be a destination of note each November.
Frankfurt drew 26,919 visitors and 632 exhibitors to the 2018 edition of formnext last week, perhaps the largest event on the calendar in additive manufacturing. With 49% international attendees and exhibitors representing 32 countries, formnext serves not only to provide some of the finest networking opportunities in this young industry but to act as a bellwether of some of the strongest trends in additive technologies. At this year’s edition — 25% larger than in 2017 but with 37,231 square meters of floor space already dwarfed by the 58,000 square meters announced for 2019 — formnext showcased an important trend in and of itself: additive manufacturing is big business.
This is the second of a two-part conversation with Gary Gereffi, director of the Global Value Chain Center at Duke University, on the future of global supply chains. In the first piece, we looked at the impact that protectionism is having on global value chains. Today, we focus on the impact of technology and the changing U.S.-China relationship.
BRINK: You’ve talked about how we should be thinking of value chains and supply chains in regional rather than global terms. Why?
Gary Gereffi: In complex industries, no single country has the capabilities to produce all of the parts of a product. If you take something like an automobile that has about 20,000 parts, the most efficient industries are actually set up on a regional basis. For example, the U.S. automobile industry is really a North American industry, where U.S. companies are very tightly intertwined with suppliers in Mexico, Canada and even Central America to form a regional supply chain that can produce a very large share of the components needed.