3D printing is a slow revolution. If you consider that this technology can save lives, create new business models, and redefine the way we design products, this is a revolution. But it won't happen overnight. The revolutionary power of 3D printing has accumulated for decades, but the pace is small but extremely valuable.
So what is the industry trend in 2019?
When Materialise predicted the 3D printing trend in 2018, it began to pay attention to the application-driven development path. As we have seen, the industry is shifting its focus to find suitable 3D printing applications rather than developing new ones. In 2019, this 3D printing trend will intensify as application-driven 3D printing is more likely to receive the attention of the financial community. “This trend has already taken shape this year,” said Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen, who further explained, “Investors will no longer be machine builders, but will instead invest in companies and start-ups that create real value in 3D printing in specific areas.”
This trend is even more pronounced in Asia, where governments that previously invested in technology development and 3D printer manufacturing are looking for ways to promote 3D printing consulting services and collaborative innovation. The goal is to encourage more industries to apply 3D printing to create demand and market for products, rather than blindly expanding when the market has not yet formed.
The cooperation between Materialise and Korea Industrial Center Ulsan is a good example of this trend. Beginning in July, Materialise has been helping Ulsan's manufacturing companies develop applications through the “Cooperative Innovation” project, which combines Materialise's expertise in 3D printing with a deep understanding of manufacturing, industry, and markets. Of course, this is not always easy. When a company moves from traditional manufacturing to additive manufacturing, design engineers need to adopt a new set of principles: this is a shift from “designing for traditional manufacturing” to “designing for additive manufacturing”. For example, when turning to metal 3D printing, it is not enough to be familiar with the design principles of metal casting. This is also the main reason why many 3D printing companies provide additive design consulting for new entrants. Consulting services can help new entrants take full advantage of 3D printing to develop their applications.
The previous year, Materialise predicted that metal 3D printing trend will receive the attention it deserves in 2018. This time, Materialise believes that plastic materials for 3D printing will grow substantially in 2019, and current mainstream material manufacturers have joined the process.
Giovanni Vleminckx, a materials specialist at the Materialise R&D team, observed that material manufacturers such as BASF have a new driving force to produce materials specifically for 3D printing, which also facilitates new materials out of the lab for true 3D printing production. In the past, material suppliers were less enthusiastic about developing new materials for 3D printing because they could not be used on commercial printers. Now, large material suppliers are expressing their willingness to promote the development of 3D printing technology. This will also drive 3D. Print plastics grow steadily and rapidly.
Innovation through application-driven 3D printing is a contributing factor. Once the industry application for 3D printing is determined, material manufacturers are committed to developing and certifying new materials for these applications. In 2018, Materialise has introduced new plastic materials: polypropylene (PP) for laser sintering, and Taurus for photocuring. This growth is especially important for demanding industries such as aerospace and automotive. These industries require materials with specific performance and quality requirements. Sometimes, these industries have to weigh the competitive advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and performance when designing additive manufacturing. But if you have new materials, you won't need such trade-offs. Whether producing functional prototypes or mass production, these industries can choose the material that best suits their application.
The rise of manufacturing final products has really driven material development compared to manufacturing prototypes. This growth is also likely to present new challenges: the need for material standardization and the need for more precise machine control, especially for industries with stringent quality requirements such as aerospace and medical devices.
All together 3D printing has come to a new stage. For three decades, 3D printing has evolved from a rapid prototyping technology to a custom production technology for mass production. In the process of integrating 3D printing into its product portfolio in various industries, the challenges brought by technology have been gradually reduced, and the economic challenges have become increasingly prominent. The ultimate goal is to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
The software automates the entire 3D printing process. This not only reduces the manpower but also improves the efficiency of the entire process. Another two major cost factors are consumables and printer runtime. How to avoid wasting these two resources? Another way to increase productivity is to simulate the 3D printing process. Combine simulation into a 3D printing workflow, allowing production operators to spot potential printing errors before printing begins. Preventing print failures can significantly reduce production costs, reduce scrap rates and increase overall profitability.
Based on the design advantages of 3D printing in the existing vertical industry, leading manufacturers in the automotive, aerospace and consumer goods industries are turning to 3D printing. However, there is still more potential to tap into the current $12 trillion in global manufacturing markets. For 3D printing, to fully exploit the potential of manufacturing and to get a bigger “cake” in the 12 trillion markets, the 3D printing industry needs to provide interoperability and technology-neutral solutions. If industrial companies decide to use 3D printing as a complementary manufacturing technology to make the final product, proprietary solutions will only limit their choice and flexibility. To expand 3D printing all over the world, we need to work together to provide more control and choice in materials and systems, ultimately reducing costs
3D printing has overcome significant challenges in the course of the most recent couple of years; not least the customer publicity that neglected to appear in the mid-2010s. Almost a decade later, technology has immovably settled itself as a modern answer for mechanical applications.
As we look to the year ahead, we'll keep on observing not so much publicity but rather more application-driven solutions. This will give more approaches to associations to utilize 3D printing as an assembling strategy that can supplement and be incorporated into existing assembling work processes.
2019promises to be an energizing year for 3D printing-and we envision significantly more improvements that will bolster the business on its way towards further growth and maturity
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