Eight Key Trends in 3D Printing

In the following blog post, published by HP Inc., 3D-printing analysts  discusses eight key trends in 3D printing to watch out for:

“HP today released its list of predictions for 3D printing and digital manufacturing in 2020. Informed by extensive interviews with a team of experts, this year’s research identifies top trends that will have a major impact on advancing Industry 4.0 such as the need for more sustainable production, how automation will transform the factory floor, and the rise of data and software as the backbone of digital manufacturing.

“The year ahead will be a time of realizing 3D printing and digital manufacturing’s true potential across industries,” said Pete Basiliere, Founder, Monadnock Insights. “As HP’s trend report indicates, digital manufacturing will enable production of users’ ideal designs by unlocking new and expanded software, data, services, and industrial production solutions that deliver more transformative experiences while also disrupting legacy industries.”

Last year, HP’s predictions discussed the need for integrating machine learning into 3D printing, how generative design will increase speed for designers, and the explosion of medical 3D applications from surgical guides to prosthetics.

The 2020 3D Printing and Digital Manufacturing Predictions Are:

1)     Automated Assembly Will Thrive on the Factory Floor

Automated assembly will arrive, with industries seamlessly integrating multi-part assemblies including combinations of both 3D printed metal and plastic parts. There’s not currently a super printer that can do all things intrinsically, like printing metal and plastic parts, due to factors such as processing temperatures. However, as automation increases, there’s a vision from the industry for a more automated assembly setup where there is access to part production across both metals and plastics simultaneously.

This could benefit the auto industry by enabling manufacturers to print metals into plastic parts, build parts that are wear-resistant and collect electricity, add surface treatments, and even build conductors or motors into plastic parts.

2)     Coding Digital Information Into 3D Printed Textures Will Accelerate

Organizations will be able to code digital information into the surface texture itself using advanced 3D printing, providing a bigger data payload than just the serial number. This is one way to tag a part either overtly or covertly so that both people and machines are able to read it based on the shape or orientation of the bumps. For example, 3D printing hundreds of copies of a serial number spread across the surface of a part so that it’s both hidden and universally apparent. This will continue to grow as the ability to track parts and data systems becomes even more important.

3)     Sustainable Production Will Continue to Be a Business Imperative

Traditional manufacturing processes were designed with little thought to the environment. As industrial 3D production intersects with manufacturing for example, the impact on the planet could be immense as nearly one-third of carbon emissions are related to the production and distribution of goods.

3D printing will enable the manufacturing industry to produce less waste, less inventory and less CO2 emissions. Engineers and designers will rethink design throughout the product lifecycle to use less material and reduce waste by combining parts and using complex geometries to produce lightweight parts. This further reduces the weight of vehicles and aircraft to improve fuel efficiency which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

And as more manufacturers transmit digital files for production locally rather than shipping goods, there will be significant decreases in shipping, reducing costs, energy consumption, waste, and emissions.

4)     Demand for Students Who Think in 3D Will Increase

Higher education is at a crossroads, challenged with competing for enrollment, changing demographics and the need to adequately prepare students for the future of work. What’s needed is a complete mind shift to prepare for Industry 4.0.

Universities and training programs will increasingly build a new set of thought processes to liberate students from old thinking and allow them to tap into technologies of the future such as 3D printing and digital manufacturing. As educators leverage new software design tools, adopt innovative curriculum in 3D printing and stand up new additive manufacturing degree programs, students will be better equipped to take advantage of the millions of jobs that the 3D printing industry will create in the next 10 years alone.

5)     Mass Customization Will Fuel New Growth in Footwear, Eyewear and Dental

The consumer health sector will fuel digital manufacturing growth and adoption, as footwear, eyewear and orthodontics applications rapidly adopt 3D printing technologies. There’s a massive application space around footwear that’s very lucrative for the 3D printing industry. According to SmartTech, footwear 3D printing is set to grow into a $6.3 billion overall revenue opportunity over the next 10 years. Orthodontics and eyewear fit alongside this growth opportunity as well, given there’s a lot of value for the customization capabilities that 3D printing brings. Case in point—disrupter SmileDirectClub is digitally transforming the $12 billion orthodontics industry.

6)     3D Printing Will Power the Electrification of Vehicles

Automakers are increasingly turning to 3D printing and digital manufacturing to help compete in a time of change, as the industry goes through its biggest transformation in more than a 100 years moving away from the internal combustion engine toward electric vehicles. As electric vehicles increase in popularity, automakers will continue to unlock the capabilities of both metal and plastic 3D printing systems to speed up their design and development in order to meet ambitious goals. For example, Volkswagen has committed to producing more than 22 million electric vehicles worldwide by 2028.

The large volumes of parts the automotive industry produces annually combined with the fast prototyping and production capabilities of 3D printing enables automakers and manufacturers to produce car parts that were previously impossible to create, pushing the capabilities of electric and even autonomous vehicles to new levels.

7)     3D Printing Will Drive New Supply Chain Efficiencies

The capability to deliver things digitally and produce things locally has not always won out. At the end of the day, manufacturers must analyze where in the supply chain it’s the most efficient to root production – whether that’s near the end users or near the source of material production.

One interesting example of this is from the 2D world around packaging. Cardboard boxes provide a fascinating use case and growth market for digital prints, as there are interesting parallels for the 3D printing of final parts. The corrugated box business is quite localized with production of boxes happening within a 150-200-mile circle of where the trees that are turned into corrugate once stood.

8)     Software Will Push the Boundaries of Digital Manufacturing to New Levels

In 2020 we will close the gap between what 3D printing and digital manufacturing hardware is capable of and what the software ecosystem supports. Advancements in software and data management will drive improved system management and part quality leading to better customer outcomes. Companies within the industry are creating API hooks to build a fluid ecosystem for customers and partners that includes purpose-built individualized products.

In addition, manufacturers will be able to leverage personalized biometric data for mass-customization, unlocking new value such as the traceability of parts through the supply chain, virtual inventory and spare parts management, and distributed manufacturing closer to the end customer.”

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