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3D Printing Ups and Downs – Where Will The 3D Printing Industry Go?

February 9, 2016

There have been some meteoric rises in the 3d Printing Industry. But a couple of problems persist:

Lack of a Single Defining Application

Historically, personal computers became ubiquitous through their productivity applications. Investment in personal computers became a tangible benefit due to the presence of productivity applications, such as VisiCalc and Word. 2D paper-based printers enabled similar efficiencies. Such applications are conspicuously absent in 3D printers. Their use has remained confined to a niche audience of hobbyists enthralled by the future possibilities of the technology.

Within the mainstream market, 3D printers are mainly used to prototype models for designers and body parts for medical students. The materials commonly used for 3D printing–PLA and ABS, both plastics–and imperfections of the technology make it difficult for average consumers to print useful or complex objects. But that is all changing…

Quality and Material Issues in Manufacturing

3D printing holds much promise in manufacturing. For starters, it can enable crafting of custom products in an easy and cost-effective manner. Secondly, it can shorten supply chain cycles by collapsing multiple product manufacturing processes into a fewer number of steps. But, 3D printing\’s limited consumer use is mirrored in the manufacturing sector. According to a report by consulting firm PriceWaterhouse Cooper, only 0.9% of surveyed companies used 3D printing for production of final products or components.

A majority of organizations surveyed for the report said they were either not planning to use the technology or were still researching it. Part of the skepticism around 3D printing in the manufacturing sector related to the final quality of the finished product. Roughly half of the surveyed manufacturers stated that the final quality of products made with 3D printers was uncertain. Almost half of the respondents also pointed to expensive prices and the technology\’s limitations in terms of materials for their lack of enthusiasm for the technology. Taken together, these reasons are a succinct (and quantitative) summary of problems with 3D printing.

According to the report, the sweet spot for 3D printing lies in low-volume and highly-specialized products. However, mass manufacturing depends on high volumes to enable cheap prices. Thus, this translates to less demand for 3D printers with manufacturers focused on consumer markets.

Read more: How To 3D Print Money

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