The advent of 3D printing has already given rise to the creation of many solutions in different industries. There’s been a big surge in uptake within the dental, automotive, medical field, as well as housing and construction too. Manufacturers have adopted the technology also known as additive manufacturing to make applications using materials such as thermoplastics and thermosetting polymers to create a diverse range of solutions. The trajectory of 3D printing is heading in one direction only, the question is, what can we expect now?
1. There will be an improvement in software capabilities
Until recently, Computer-Aided Design software has not been built with 3D printing technology in mind. As a result, it is not ideal for creating certain designs (e.g. lattice structures) that 3D printing can create. It’s possible to integrate a number of different software applications to work with additive manufacturing technology, but it is a long-winded approach that would be better suited to one single program – of which some are already being created. As 3D design is such a rudimentary element of additive manufacturing, it’s likely we will see the development of more sophisticated 3D printing software in the future.
2. Education will harness the progression of 3D printing
With 3D printing comes the requirement for greater knowledge and education, a concept which has often been perceived as one of the technology’s challenges. Diverse expertise is required for the implementation of 3D printing for production and it is likely we will see an increase in further training and development for managers and engineers to improve their skills and knowledge. Education will also arrive in the form of further informing the market about the capabilities of 3D printing. There has been an increase in the volume of online courses already, the result of which means businesses will be able to harness the technology to an even greater extent.
3. Improved sustainability in manufacturing
There are already clear waste reduction benefits brought about by the very processing of 3D printing, meaning that layers are added and not removed from an object as they are in many traditional, subtractive manufacturing processes. A further benefit is the fact that more detailed and efficient designs have the potential to be made in the future, which could improve sustainability further.
4. The dental industry will adopt even greater use of 3D printing technology
Additive manufacturing has played a role in the dental industry for several years. 3D printed crowns and dental aligner moulds are made with the technology and there is more to come with greater speed involved in the production, meaning the making of customised designs will be easier to achieve. The detail will be finer and because of their proliferation, costs will ultimately be lowered, opening the market to more people.
5. There will be developments in composite 3D printing
It is predicted that composite will become significantly more popular in 3D printing. It’s a substance created using two different materials, that when combined create a specialised material designed for a particular purpose, for example, for greater strength or to produce a light weight object. At the moment, composite manufacturing is a cumbersome and lengthy task, which makes it difficult to scale to high volume, and there are also issues related to poor software capabilities. With 3D printing, the production of composite is faster, resulting in a reduction in traditional production costs and the potential to replace other materials with composites.
6. Greater competition will ensue
Because of the success of 3D printing there has inevitably been more new entrants into the market which will undoubtedly result in increased competition. Both established and new businesses of various sizes will be moving into the space to capitalise on its growth. This will mean a greater requirement to diversify, innovate and reinvent some of the 3D printing technologies and applications in existence now.
7. Greater prominence in architecture
It’s expected that 3D printed homes are the future in housing with the recent build of a home in Holland which now has official residents. Houses can be built in days with additive manufacturing, signifying potential to turn architecture and construction as we know it, upside down. As well as the speed of construction, the process also allows for designs to present accurate visuals ahead of the build and the same technology can be easily replicated to build houses, which can also help in emergencies such as housing disasters and natural accidents.
8. 3D metal printing will rise in use
3D printing in metal is not new, but there is still more come to according to the experts. The onset of improved technologies will make way for greater adoption of metal 3D printing, and at this stage of its development it’s inevitable we will see the standardisation of practices for repeatable processes coming into play.