Some may call it disruptive, others may love the idea, but the rise of technologies such as 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, could herald a vast change to the future of a range of industries.
Even across industries such as automotive and healthcare, there has been increasing adoption across different areas which is unlikely to slow down any time soon.
Although 3D printing was developed during the 1980s, the evolution demonstrated over the past 20 years appears to have quickened pace this year. The Sculpteo ‘State of 3D printing’ study found that 55 percent of industry professionals surveyed predict that they will be spending more on 3D printing in 2017.
As the 3D printing market continues to mature, growing numbers of companies have adopted 3D printing to boost their offering of services to customers, whilst there has been a huge growth in the number of 3D printing startups in the UK.
3D printing can be integrated across various markets, and evidently the manufacturing industry is not the only place it can be deployed. The beginning of the 'fourth industrial revolution' is spreading wider than just the traditional niche.
An example of this is global footwear manufacturer Adidas, which in partnership with Silicon Valley company Carbon announced the development of 3D printed soles of their Futurecraft trainers early this year.
“This is a milestone not only for us as a company, but also for the industry,” Adidas’ Gerd Manz told Reuters.
Last year Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS hospital in the UK demonstrated the first use of 3D printing to support a kidney transplant involving an adult donor and child recipient.
These are just two examples of how 3D printing is used across different industries. In retail, 3D printing could change the future of the supply chain whilst also offering uniquely customised retail products.
Sculpteo’s study also revealed that 90 percent of companies using 3D printing consider it as a competitive advantage in their strategy. Other deployments of the manufacturing tool have been used across areas such as healthcare, the automotive industry and more.
The healthcare industry in particular is one that innovation helps to deliver a huge impact on the improvement of processes. With the use of 3D printing, patient diagnosis and treatments are improved, enabling doctors to work faster and reducing the time spent in the theatre for patients.
One example of this has been demonstrated at the USC Institute of Urology of Keck Medicine of USC, where Urological surgeons have been able to use 3D printed reproductions of patients’ organs as guides to find cancerous cells.
As mentioned before, over the past few years 3D printing has been both portrayed and demonstrated as the next big thing in manufacturing and the tool to kick off the 4th industrial revolution.
Since then, there have been various inventions and methods of adoption all in the use of 3D printing, some large scale and others not so much. However, many are only just seeing the potential over the past two to three years of the decades old manufacturing equipment.
The current state is that many believe that the additive manufacturing will have a greater impact in the future. For now it seems that companies are still testing the waters to identify what works and what does not.
In industries such as automotive 3D printing can be referred to as disruptive based on the uses of the equipment. For instance, the world’s first 3D printed car was revealed by Local Motors in 2014, which took 44 hours to print.
Initially, automotive makers adopted 3D printing for the speedy manufacturing of replacement car parts, but Local Motors showed themselves living above the hype with the creation of a 3D printed car.
Overall, 3D printing will definitely continue to show its impact in industry as companies become more innovative towards the future.
There are benefits and there are also challenges to the adoption of additive manufacturing, but with the current state of 3D printing and the increasing growth in startups and unique products and designs, the technology does not seem to be shifting from the market any time soon.