3D printing is a brand-new industry that has been taking its baby steps over the last few years. The scope of promise for the industry and its sustainability is just now becoming clear with the increasing options and future promises that the industry entails. Increasing numbers of start-up companies are joining the various 3D printing markets whether that be in technology, materials, software or sales. While the market is undergoing massive evolutions and frequent technological advancements, it’s long term future is hard to visualise. Trends for 2020 on the other hand are within reach, tangible and ready to be explored.
As the possibilities of 3D printing are becoming clearer, more start-ups and technological companies are investing into the research and development of 3D printing technology. The industry is growing at an increasing rate with new technology being developed and put to market, each with a specific niche in the industry targeting printing machinery, materials, manufacturers and various construction industries. Companies are competing to establish their technology within their chosen niche and build up a market around their product. The 3D printing landscape is uneven with technological advancements being made frequently, and an ever-increasing need for more convenient, energy efficient, time saving machinery and production processes. Hence, the future promises a continued scramble for market footholds and the development of up-to-date technology.
Since 3D printing is still a relatively new method of production, the materials that are available for use are limited and costly. As the use and demand for 3D printing increases, the market for 3D printable materials is expected to expand to include a much wider range of accessible materials. Advancements are particularly expected in materials that have industrial uses with a number of emerging competitors already carving out their niche in various industry markets. Upcoming materials are expected to be produced with much higher quality and durability to meet the regulations and expectations of different industries. While the range of materials is expected to broaden, costs of new and existing materials are likely to remain high. The current challenges in the 3D printing industry and the still relatively low usage, prevent companies from justifying large scale manufacturing. Since individual industries require customised 3D printing materials, companies will focus on increasing their development of a range of available materials rather than increasing their production of existing materials.
The 3D printing software markets have up till now been relatively stagnant. The typical software involved is composed of lengthy and complicated design processes with multiple sources of input. Software companies are expected to infiltrate the market with the development of user-friendly design software that streamlines design processes into complete systems that are user-friendly, straightforward to use and essentially, more accessible. Additionally, software solutions are expected to appear for simulation software for the visualisation and prediction of the result of 3D printing, structural integrity and it’s use in the real world. While the availability of 3D printing software on the market is indeed expected to increase in the following year, the amount of innovation, research and development into software is likely to explode with companies working to produce the optimal software that works with particular industries and the increasing range of materials. With improved software for design and simulation, not only will 3D printing processes improve in speed of production but products will be able to be tested before they are created, resulting in reduction of waste and digital corrections.
A key attribute of 3D printing that cements it as a process that will stretch into the future is it’s sustainability. Compared to traditional construction, the amount of scrap metal is significantly reduced. Typically, a section of required material is obtained and reduced down to the correct size, resulting in a substantial amount of material discarded as scrap and often unusable. 3D printing on the other hand, builds up structures in individual layers with only the necessary amount of material involved. The reduced amounts of material required is better for manufacturers since they will be saving money on materials; the environment also benefits thanks to less material being created and wasted. Additionally, the efficiency of 3D printing means that the process of production for an object uses a fraction of the energy required for traditional subtractive production, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process. 2020 and beyond holds the promise of processes and techniques that are increasingly energy efficient and that produce minimal waste.
3D printing has already made the leap from being a brand-new wonder technology to a practical production method with countless possibilities. The industry is now working on harnessing those possibilities and turning them into realities to work towards making the 3D printing industry becoming a mainstream platform of production that trickles down into main society.
Ashley Halsey contributes to writing projects throughout the country whose work can be found at Luckyassignments and Gumessays. She enjoys traveling, reading, attending business training courses and being a mother to two wonderful children.