With the industry showing no signs of slowing down and innovations hitting the market on a continual basis we look to cut through the hype and concentrate on what will make an impact on the industry through the rest of 2018 and into 2019. We are in the midst of a serious boom industry here with a recent Wohlers report showing the AM industry growing 21% to $7.336 billion, this is in addition to 17.4% in 2016 and 25.9% in 2015.
The Imminent Increase in Expertise
So far in 2018, we are noticing a significant upturn in peoples understanding of 3D printing, so the industry as a whole is trending. Recent surveys taken showed that around 15% of people consider themselves to be novices, just over 40% see themselves at an intermediary level, and nearly 45% believe themselves to be towards expert level.
The same time last year surveys taken were taken and around 40% considered themselves to be beginners, so you can see the attention the industry is receiving, this means that the technology itself must keep pace with increasing interest levels, we can all agree it is a very addictive technology.
1. The State of the 3D Printing Industry
With users becoming savvier by the year, the perceived comfort zone that developers were in twelve months ago has gone. People are developing new skills at a rapid pace, and likewise, companies are having to adjust to this fact and put more focus back into Research & Development again into new technologies and applications to create new forms of 3D printing, the only way to keep ahead is innovation.
2. Metal 3D Printing on the Increase
A focus on materials is essential for moving forward. It is clear to say that plastic is still the most used composite in 3D printing but DLMS technology is on the rise, and we are starting to see more use of metal composite being used for printing.
Metal printing is ideal for smaller scale production projects as it lends itself to production flexibility but at the same time is perfect for designs with high complexity.
Metal additive manufacturing (AM) as it is known is on the rise, as the material is ideal for producing lighter items at higher production rates. A recent trend has seen it being used to make 3D seats for aeroplanes. Upon completion, they weighed in an astonishing 50% lighter than their regular counterparts at only 766 grams. As the technology moves forward, we can expect forms of metal printing to change the dynamic of industries.
Although I am not an expert in aviation, if an airline manufacturer can halve the weight of the entire content of their passenger seats, this must have different benefits in various areas. With a lighter aircraft, many new variables come into play, undoubtedly most of them positive. For the aviation business, this will create a positive domino effect if you like, so this is literally the tip of the iceberg for metal 3D printing and not just for the aviation industry!
Manufacturers will be studying these results with great interest and no doubt we will start to see the fruits of these finding at some point with new creations in 2019.
3. 3D Printer Purchases on the Rise
As seen in the Wohlers report above, an estimated 1,768 metal AM systems were sold in 2017, compared to 983 orders in 2016, an increase of 80 percent.
In general, we are seeing an increase in widespread ownership. With an increase in consumer purchases of the physical product, the knock-on effect will be an increase in demand for new applications and technology innovation.
A trend we see happening is that with an increase of around 7% of the general public looking to purchase a printer this year compared to last, companies will look to produce multiple printers to act in different roles before they go down the road of the digital printing industry with their 3-in-1 multi-functional printers.
4. The Need for more Project Managers
Businesses are now in need of project managers. The recent trend has seen and increases in companies adding project managers but a decrease in the hiring of engineers.
Profile hiring is a segment of interest in the 3D printing industry. Nearly 25% of the businesses surveyed said they were looking at hiring project managers this year compared to less than 5% at the same time last year. So what does this tells us about the industry as a whole?
It seems the agenda and priority #1 is a need to increase levels of expertise. As 3D printing projects become more intricate and branch out into new areas, the execution of these projects needs to be overseen by an expert, so execution from development to the market is seamless.
5. 3DP Printing in the Medical Industry
As I just mentioned the #1 priority is an increase in industry expertise. 3D printers are learning higher level skill sets at a rapid pace. So competition is rife, and there is a need to stay ahead and stand out from the competition. Medical 3D printing and bioprinting are two forms that are emerging as the competition heats up.
Bioprinting is a process of printing 3D cells that are being looked at to be used soon as potential cures for diseases. 3D printing labs are emerging as a fascinating new sector and are seeing large volumes of venture capital from businesses to wealthy entrepreneurs piling funds in to try to be the first to make breakthroughs. This will undoubtedly be a sector of interest in 2019.
6. Mass Manufacturing 3D Printing
So far we have touched on niche areas such as metals and new medical labs that are in experimental and breakout stages, but of course, as with all industries, you cannot ignore mass production.
So the outlook for 2019 is how 3D printing can develop quickly enough to handle more workload in less time but produce the same quality. Being in a position to offer customised products is a significant factor for businesses.
With 3D printers finding their way into more businesses, being able to offer a unique product is paramount, but the ability to produce them en-masse is a game-changer.
The allure of 3D printing is what it brings to a business’s bottom line. For a company to be able to mass produce quality products without the cost of traditional manufacturing processes and methods with being innovative at the same time does not come along very often.
The industry is breaking new boundaries, and in conjunction with the hiring of experts to know how to best market these products, business will shift towards this outlet more and more.
These 6 trends will pressurise the traditional printing industry which is already undergoing a significant overhaul and re-direction itself as it moves into the digital printing age to try to stay relevant and compete. 3D printing seemingly has no boundaries. From consumer goods to aerospace, industrial production, and the medical industry, this is a juggernaut that is going to take some catching.