Additive manufacturing has proved to be a boon for manufacturers and they have been witnessing a sweeping change in terms of ease of production, efficiency, and cost of production. Owing to the primary benefit of 3D printing which is reduction of the wastage of material, manufacturers are now readily adopting it in their manufacturing processes. According to a report by Mordor Intelligence, the 3D printing market is expected to become worth USD 63.46 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 29.48 percent. As per the online manufacturing service provider 3D Hubs, there are three times more professionals using 3D printing today than three years ago.
A study done by EY in 2019 says that out of the 900 companies surveyed, 65 percent were already using 3D printing and 18 percent were considering it for their applications in the near future. Although these figures are for the global market and adoption in Indian market is comparatively lesser, the trend moving forward is certainly upbeat with regard to incorporating the technology in the manufacturing sector.
If we look at the overall adoption categorically, metal additive manufacturing has been witnessing a considerably higher growth compared to other segments. The consumer sector, however, is lacking lustre as the demand has yet to gain momentum, especially for small desktop 3D printers. In terms of market players, 3D printer manufacturers still enjoy the largest market share, and the online service providers are the next in line. As technological advancements and product innovations are happening, the use of 3D printing technology is finding more and more applications in a wide variety of areas such as aerospace, medical, automotive etc.
Another significant advantage of 3D printing is that it allows the production to be scaled on demand. Producing a component on an on-demand basis obviates the need for maintaining a large inventory of parts that may or may not be needed immediately for assembly. As a result, it can reduce inventory and warehousing costs immensely. This applies very clearly in the automotive industry wherein as per a report by MIT, 3D printing could reduce component inventory by 90 percent. It enables manufacturers to bring down the need for physical space for storing spare parts as they can keep the digital files on the cloud and use it for production when the spare part is required.
“The industry is at a critical inflection point — we’ve built these amazing 3D printers that are capable of reliably manufacturing high-volume, end-use parts. To fully realize these capabilities, we need to innovate for adjacent processes while embracing data-driven approaches to ensure consistent, reliable output,” says Naresh Shanker, CTO, Xerox.
The shift from physical prototypes to digital ones is also enabling digital transformation in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers no longer have to bear the cost of tooling and fixturing as well as moving a file to another location. This is a revolutionary change brought about by 3D printing as it makes the labour-intensive methods redundant.