- The aerospace and medical industries continue to lead in using 3D printing for production, but new applications are emerging at a slow pace. The biomedical industry was one of the early adopters of 3D printing due to the high level of customization and complex part design requirements associated with its use cases. Similarly, applications in the aerospace industry often require low volume, high costs, and parts that are designed for functionality but are difficult to manufacture with traditional methods, making them suitable cases for the use of 3D printing. Companies active in other industries try to identify use cases where 3D printing can solve a manufacturing challenge through lead time savings and supply chain simplification. For example, in the railway industry, the lifetime of a train reaches up to 50 years if end-of-life parts are replaced during its lifetime. Replacement part production for discontinued products is a promising application for 3D printing due to the required flexibility, low volume, and short lead times. At the event, Angel Trains (together with Stratasys and Deutsche Bahn) showed that it has 3D printed parts that are structurally compliant for use in passenger trains.
- Per part cost is highly dependent on the specific use case, and startups fail to share actual case studies to support cost reduction claims. Volume, part size and complexity, material cost, deposition rate, first-time print rate, support removal time and cost, and many other parameters determine the actual per-part cost. Innovators are still mostly reluctant to share cost indicators for validated use cases, and new entrants lack real-world case studies. The users of 3D printing often have more know-how than 3D printing system developers, so clients with specific use cases should reach out to service bureaus to receive per-part printing costs. Similarly, they should consider online marketplaces that offer real-time quotation and/or part manufacturability recommendations. Example exhibitors were Link3D and 3YourMind.
- Post-processing is finally becoming an integral part of the 3D printing manufacturing workflow, but there are only a few innovators in this space. PostProcess Technologies, Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT), and DyeMansion are examples – which automate coloring, surface finishing, or support removal processes. As we discussed in our recent report ("Moving Polymer 3D Printing From Prototyping to Production Through Partnerships"), an integrated ecosystem addressing the entire manufacturing workflow is necessary for using 3D printing for production, so clients should closely monitor these companies, which help complete the workflow.
In summary, the event showcased several improvements related to hardware, materials, software applications, and compliance. Lux believes that, moving forward, there will be increasing focus on "ecosystems" that include hardware, materials, and software solutions to address the whole manufacturing workflow. A fully integrated ecosystem will be key to using 3D printing for high-value applications in different industries. Therefore, we advise clients to identify where they can play a role in the 3D printing value chain to help create an integrated ecosystem for production.
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