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Decoding: What’s on the horizon for 3D printing?

The additive process also provides a high degree of agility to the medical industry. Examples include the production of patient-specific implants.

Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg aspirin tablets, distributed by Target Corporation. The orange tablets are imprinted in black with "L429". Source- Ragesoss (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Generic regular strength enteric coated 325mg aspirin tablets, distributed by Target Corporation. The orange tablets are imprinted in black with "L429". Source- Ragesoss (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Hubs, an online manufacturing platform, has published a 3D Printing Trend Report. The report is based on insights from over a thousand of customers and manufacturing partners.

The report indicates an increase in the adoption of 3D printing for large-scale orders. A majority of respondents, 71 percent, revealed they 3D printed more parts in 2022 compared to 2021.

Market growth

In terms of the industry’s market size, this has risen to $17.05 billion at an annual growth rate of 13 percent. The driving force behind this growth can be attributed to 83 percent of businesses reporting substantial cost reductions through 3D printing. Going forwards, the 3D printing market is projected to grow by 17 percent, reaching $19.9 billion by the end of 2023. The polymer AM market generated over twice the revenue compared to its metal counterpart. However, metal additive manufacturing experienced stronger growth than polymer in 2022 and is expected to continue growing at a higher rate.

In terms of different additive manufacturing technologies, industrial polymer systems had a marginal 2 percent drop. Industrial metal systems, on the other hand, saw a slight increase in shipments.

3D printing’s impact on key industries

The report highlights the primary applications of 3D printing, with prototyping leading at 66 percent. This application is followed by tooling and end-use part production, enabling mass customization and minimizing machine downtimes.

With specific sectors, the aerospace industry, an early adopter of additive manufacturing, continues to be a key player in the 3D printing space. The technology’s ability to create lightweight components that enhance aircraft fuel efficiency is particularly appealing to the industry.

The additive process also provides a high degree of agility to the medical industry. Examples include the production of patient-specific implants, prosthetics, surgical guides and instruments, anatomical models, dental products, and more. The report also explores other industries poised for transformation, including food, fashion, motorsports, bioprinting, and space.

Future of 3D printing

In terms of the future state, the report dives into the impact of AI and smart materials (4D printing) on additive manufacturing. It is expected that these technologies will improve consistency and quality control.

Other AI tools could streamline generative design and make complex elements more accessible in the 3D printing process. Additional innovations include seeking a lighter environmental footprint.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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