Artem Komarov noted that the past year has shown that additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is becoming a serious and mature manufacturing technology suitable for making series of small and medium-sized parts, and not just for prototyping.
Below are six trends that are expected to have a major impact on those who use AM technologies in 2023 and beyond.
1. Bigger, faster, and cheaper equipment
3D printing technologies are advancing rapidly, driving the adoption of faster and less expensive printers. At the same time, the growing demand for specialized materials that can provide the required properties of final parts will continue to drive the development of new materials.
An important feature of new generation printers, especially industrial grade models, is their ability to work with a wider range of advanced materials. This opens opportunities for more businesses to benefit from AP than ever before.
While equipment costs remain high, faster print speeds are driving down part prices. And with features such as dual extrusion printheads, AM’s versatility is growing, and 3D printing usage is predicted to surge across a wider range of industries.
Another trend that is likely to drive growth is the ability to print parts without support structures, which again expands the range of applications that AP can handle and provides cost and time savings.
To increase the sustainability of the supply chain, 3D printing can become part of a holistic and secure platform in which individual stages are combined into a single process — from product concept to materials, digital inventory, production and delivery.
2. The growth of the role of AM in the supply chain.
To maximize the benefits of AM, manufacturers need access to a wide range of printers and materials, as well as networking with other industry professionals.
In addition, compatibility between different systems has become important to maximize the potential of 3D printing. Automated manufacturing and post-processing and integrated usability will become increasingly important in 2023 and beyond.
Additive manufacturing provides a solution to supply chain disruptions like those currently occurring due to recent global events.
AM can help develop a new approach to supply chains. 3D printing will become part of a holistic and secure platform, in which the individual steps are combined into a single process — from product concept to materials, digital inventory, production and delivery. The creation and use of these platforms will help to move towards digital production and the implementation of industry 4.0.
3. Creation of a production ecosystem
Partnerships promote mutual benefits and synergies that result in a better product for end users. This synergy helps to enable industrial scale-up.
However, there is a need for a more holistic approach. Industry-wide standards need to be developed, printers and post-processing systems need to work together, and access to collected manufacturing data can lead to better printers and materials.
Close collaboration is essential to achieve the best results for all involved. An ecosystem where service providers, material manufacturers and print farms around the world are connected is the next step in improving AM.
4. Problems of quality assurance and safety
Additive manufacturing continues to transform as companies adopt technology to meet their part manufacturing needs. For industrial production, companies must have assurance that their 3D printed parts meet established quality requirements. It is imperative that companies carefully select manufacturing partners, test their capabilities, and ensure repeatable parts fit for purpose.
There are also concerns about data ownership. We believe that intellectual property and data management issues will be important topics in the future. Further steps are needed to ensure that design data remains with the rightful owner.
5. Need for a more sustainable supply chain
Throughout 2020 and 2021, industrial supply chain discussions continued. COVID-19, geopolitical issues such as cross-border trade disputes, and even unforeseen events such as a ship being stuck in the Suez Canal have shown the vulnerability of global supply chains.
I believe supply chain disruptions will continue into 2023.
Physical inventory is the weak link in any supply chain. But the fact that part designs can be placed digitally keeps physical inventory and shipping costs to a minimum. With Digital Warehouse, once a part is ordered, it can be automatically shipped to the best AM manufacturing partner based on the partner’s location, capability, and manufacturing capacity.
With digital inventory, parts are securely stored, managed, and produced on demand.
And because parts can be produced anywhere, anytime, this approach reduces transportation-related CO₂ emissions while increasing the sustainability of the supply chain.
6. Implementation of sustainable manufacturing practices
Whether it’s to meet the demands of end users, comply with official regulations, or fulfill a moral obligation, building sustainable production and supply chains is becoming increasingly important. Sustainability includes 3D printing, which can – if applied correctly – reduce the amount of waste generated in the production of parts.
By specifically designing a part for 3D printing, a manufacturer can significantly reduce the weight of the final part. This reduces the consumption of material for the manufacture of parts.
When using additive manufacturing as part of a decentralized on-demand digital warehouse, it reduces inventory parts, associated waste and CO2 emissions.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, when using 3D printing as part of a decentralized on-demand digital warehouse, AM reduces inventory parts, associated waste, and CO2 emissions generated during shipping.
Looking to the future, the use of 3D printing will grow as companies strive to meet their sustainability goals. However, the energy consumed in the production process must be reduced. There are now huge improvements in this area, including the growth in the production of environmentally friendly materials for 3D printing, such as recycled, reusable and biodegradable plastics, summed up Komarov Artem.