A funny thing happened on the way to writing this blog—Additive Manufacturing (AM) has grown up. Now, some may rightly say that AM has been around for decades. And it has. But there can be little doubt that the reach and scope of AM, or 3D printing, now touches virtually every aspect of industrial and, indeed, human activity. Certainly, Deloitte’s 3D Opportunity collection of thought leadership bears this out in the vast scope and depth of its coverage. And, of course, one can also point to any number of widely available metrics that makes clear AM’s remarkable strides—from number of patents to AM system revenues to how common the term “additive manufacturing” now appears in Google searches compared to just a few years ago.
A recently published Deloitte report titled “Matching strengths: A new wave of corporate alliances may be on the horizon,” highlights how business uncertainties stemming from globalization, changing demand patterns, and technological developments seems to have led to increased mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the US in the past three years.1 These trends have touched the additive manufacturing (AM) sector—an area we’ve covered in depth over the years. M&A deals in AM are increasing in size and pace, particularly in the US, where many non-traditional 3D companies have entered the market.
We’ve just come back from the RAPID + TCT 2017 conference this week, a platform for specialists from various organizations to showcase their latest applications in the 3D printing space.1
In the first two posts in this series, we looked at some of the surprising ways the extended global automotive industry is transforming into a new mobility ecosystem and offered a glimpse at one way we might use that ecosystem for faster, safer, cleaner, and more efficient travel.
For quite some time, we’ve been following the many ways in which 3D printing has entered our lives. More and more we see companies using AM technologies to make products stronger, smaller, faster, better, or cheaper. In terms of industry applications, at a basic level, AM is helping people build a car and a home. More notably, the technology is helping to save lives. Here we present five of the noteworthy developments in additive manufacturing so far.
Advancing AM technologies–improving existing technologies or developing new ones
In the past year, several AM technologies were developed in conventional and hybrid manufacturing that promise to improve product quality and could lead to cost savings in the coming years. Continue reading “Additive manufacturing: where it’s been, where it’s going”
Posted by Kelly Marchese
I’m pretty excited about developments in 3d printing that mean I may soon be able to order a bespoke running shoe. A recent Fortune article highlighted the impact 3D printing is having on the running shoe business–allowing customers to completely customize their shoe design from the foot bed on up. This is a win-win for consumers and running shoe manufacturers. Can you imagine a pair of shoes fitted to your feet’s idiosyncracies? Bliss. Sign me and my arches up.
But, behind the headlines of the running shoe story lies a supply chain cost-saving story about additive manufacturing and the opportunity to capture tremendous value within the 3D supply chain. The win for running shoe manufacturers using 3d printing is the time–hence cost–saved by printing on demand and removing the steps required when using molds, or carrying large inventories. Continue reading “Lower supply chain costs should be taking the additive manufacturing spotlight”
Posted by Vikram Rajan
As the general public becomes more aware of the game-changing capabilities of additive manufacturing (AM), some very creative minds are pushing the envelope and exploring new product designs and new ways of manufacturing old products. Their work is critical, driving AM innovation that unshackles product and part design from the restrictions of traditional manufacturing. This brings AM intellectual property (IP) considerations into the limelight. (Check out “3D opportunity for intellectual property risk” to see how this topic that offers significant opportunities and challenges.)
Beyond innovative product design, AM portends even greater changes. This is because with AM the value of a product rests in the design–the manufacturing can be performed by any business or individual with a 3D printer capable of handling the print job. Transmitting product designs, which boils down to just digital information, to anyone who is interested can be done between potential end users. This might dissuade designers from investing time and effort into creating new products. Serious thought should be given to finding a sustainable way forward that is designed to keep both designers and customers incentivized. Without this, it may be difficult to turn AM into a universally adopted manufacturing method, taking it past the realm of rapid prototyping and novelty knick-knacks.
Posted by Monika Mahto
As additive manufacturing nears everyday use, business managers must get onboard with the technology basics and underlying benefits
I’m headed to Bangalore for an annual tech conference. Over the years I’ve come to know a lot of other regular attendees, and we have debated and discussed many technologies as they move from the theoretical to the applied state. The evolution, development, and application of Additive Manufacturing (AM) has been one of our favorite topics–and just look at how far that technology has come. We are fast approaching using 3D printing in our everyday lives. It’s possible there may even be 3D printed parts on the large commercial aircraft I am about to board!
Continue reading “Getting business on board with additive manufacturing”
Posted by Brenna Sniderman
You know how it goes at auto shows: concept cars, cool new designs. Cars are brought into a vast convention space filled with auto lovers and journalists eager to get a glimpse of up-and-coming new technologies that will herald the next evolution in automobiles. But at 2015 Detroit auto show, Phoenix-based Local Motors showed up without a car…and instead “printed” one: the Strati, the world’s first 3D-printed car.i
True, mainstream automakers are not 3d printing entire cars at this point, or even many end-use parts. But it’s getting there, and I would argue that additive manufacturing currently plays a pretty crucial role in most auto manufacturers’ processes already, even if 3d printed parts themselves aren’t yet showing up in the finished products. Indeed, automotive companies are already voracious users of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies: Automotive constitutes one of the largest areas of AM system sales, narrowly trailing industrial parts and consumer products.ii
Continue reading “Additive Technology moves into the fast lane”
Posted by Ian Wing
My first lesson in quality assurance for additive manufacturing was a hard one. As a young engineer, I built a set of two identical head-shaped devices to measure helmet fit. As both devices looked faintly human-like, I’ll give them each a name for the purposes of this article: let’s call them Starsky and Hutch.
The devices looked great. The matte finish of the jet-black ABS which made up the somewhat angular shape of the headforms gave them a futuristic look, which was only compounded by the real-time readings indicating the helmet “tightness” tracing across the screens adjacent laptops. Except for the serial numbers, they appeared identical. During initial testing, the devices worked wonderfully on their own, however, when we ran tests comparing the two one would always read “tighter” than the other.