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article imageSignificant corporate investment in 3D printing

By Tim Sandle     Jan 6, 2018 in Business
Many technology companies have shifted focus to artificial intelligence, automation to advanced materials. These areas are of importance, yet other corporations have chosen to make 3D printing the priority.
Most notably industrial companies, such as GE and Siemens, are shifting their investment focus beyond their R&D and automation to portfolios and towards 3D printing. The reason is, CB Insights assesses, is because 3D printing has considerable potential to significantly lower material costs and minimize supply chains.
In addition, additive manufacturing can help to improve product performance and increase design freedom in multiple industries. This is a reflection of a move away from mass production and towards the manufacture of niche products for consumers. With traditional forms of manufacturing it can prove prohibitively expensive to manufacture small runs of personalized products for the more discerning consumer; however, 3D printers provide the means to make this possible.
As well as product output, large corporations are also using 3D printing to streamline internal processes and for the manufacture of components required for larger goods. According to the website Materialise: "Once limited to the role of rapid prototype design, additive manufacturing has permeated the broader production process to deliver a range of efficiency and efficacy benefits to help manufacturing enterprises of all sizes."
3D printing has advanced in recent years, with new innovations improving quality as well as the speed and efficiency of the printing process (see: "New algorithm speeds up 3D printing two-fold").
In terms of investments in the technology, GE is the major player with six equity investments between 2013 and the end of 2017, made through GE Ventures; plus three acquisitions of 3D printer companies, a dedicated additive manufacturing division, and multiple 3D printed parts in service.
In related 3D printing news, NASA has begun printing rocket parts using 3D printing technology. See the Digital Journal article "Essential Science: 3D printed rocket parts now a reality."
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