Better, Faster, Stronger: 3D Printers Evolve Alongside Increased Automation Processes
According to Autodesk, “The problem with 3D printing is that it, well, it kinda sucks rights now.” There is nothing more frustrating than waiting hours for your print to complete, only to have it fail near the end. Over the past few years, 3D-printing enthusiasts have been patient through failed prints, low accuracy, and slow speed.
But this year, advances in technology will significantly increase the speed, reliability, and capability of 3D production. Printing speed is expected to increase by 10x, aided not only by improved printers but also by higher workflow automation.
In addition to improving printer technology, both software and hardware is becoming increasingly automated to decrease print times. “As 3D printing technologies are maturing, the focus will turn towards streamlining pre- and post-production processes. The easiest way of doing this is by automating the most time-consuming parts of the process,” says Van der Schueren of Materialise. Software automation will include processes such as automatic support structures generation. Companies also plan to employ industrial robotic arms to autonomously move, remove, load, and wash prints, with automatic quality inspection.
Metal and Other Filaments Transform Industry Applications
This year, everyone is talking about metal extrusion printing. “Now, after years of there being zero metal extrusion printers, there will be two in the new year from Desktop Metal and Markforged. These technologies promise new materials and a higher degree of user-friendliness for metal printing,” says Cullen Hilkene, 3Diligent.
With the ability to create metal prints, 3D printing leaves behind its niche as a prototyping and short-run production tool, and we may see a shift in the market to the creation of end-use parts.
“This long-talked-about shift is finally being driven by the availability of high-speed 3D printers and functional new materials that make direct printing of end-use parts that compete with injection molded pieces a reality.” -Al Siblani, CEO of EnvisionTEC
There is also expected to be an increase in a variety of polymers and other 3D printing materials, including wood, ceramics, aluminum alloys, precious metals, flame-retardant filaments, and multi-material 3D printing.
A Growing Market: Dropping Prices Lead to Widespread Use
According to the global market intelligence and advisory services provider, the 3D printing market is predicted to expand at a 27% compound annual growth rate. The now $19.7 billion industry is expected to see its fastest rate of growth yet as it explodes to $24.1 billion within the next year. Many speculate this increase in growth is due to increasingly accessible prices for desktop 3D printers.
Kidd, CEO of MyMiniFactory says, “2018 will see even more consumers get their first device. With popular 3D printer models now costing less than a Playstation or an Xbox, this growth in adoption will be driven by 3D printer manufacturers focusing their attention on the user experience of the whole solution – hardware + software + content.”
Growth is expected to be driven by West European, Asian, and US markets, with new countries increasingly adopting the new technology, leading to worldwide adoption.
The lowered price point will open up new markets for 3D printing. We expect to see increased use of 3D printing in the aircraft, dental, consumer goods, and sporting goods industries. Vishal Singh, co-founder and CTO of LINK3D even predicts that “the emergence of Blockchain technology will slowly be adopted within the Additive Manufacturing industry because Blockchain offers immutability of digital files. This is a quality that is paramount to increasing security management of IP throughout the AM workflow.”
Many medicinal applications are about to open up in the industry, with 3D printing improving worldwide access to medicine and medicinal devices as well as tissues and organs widely needed for transplants. Menno Ellis, SVP Strategy and Vertical Markets, 3D Systems says of bioprinting, “I believe that 3D printing in 2018 will see continued advancements in bioprinting of tissues and organs, enabling a greater number of healthcare applications.”
A World Transformed by Additive Manufacturing
“We can expect to witness a more connected, digital, functional, and agile world to do things the right way. It’s a world limited only by our imagination.” – Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension