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Industrial 3D printing poised to shift from prototyping to full-scale production runs, says survey

Industrial 3D printing is poised to move from prototyping to full-scale production runs, according to a survey by Essentium, a provider of 3D printing technology and materials for additive manufacturing.

Essentium says the findings of its survey, 3D Printing At Scale, conducted by Dimensional Research, reveal that confidence in, and deployment of, industrial-scale 3D printing is at a tipping point amongst 3D production manufacturing stakeholders and decision makers.

Over half of the respondents report to be preparing for full-scale 3D printing production runs, 21 percent now use 3D printing for full-scale production part runs, and 88 percent believe the economic advantage to manufacturing industries from production scale 3D printing will be in the billions of dollars. 

As well as reducing manufacturing costs, the transformational impact on manufacturing from industrial-scale 3D printing is expected to be far-reaching according to the survey findings.

Forty-three percent of respondents believe it will make the mass customization of products possible, 39 percent expect to gain competitive advantage from a dramatic acceleration in the cycle of design to proof of concept to mass production, and 38 percent expect to bring the manufacturing supply chain closer to the customer as outsourcing production of parts to other geographies for economic purposes becomes redundant.

While the vast majority of survey respondents were bullish on the future impact of industrial scale 3D printing in manufacturing, they also cited a number of barriers that need to be resolved in order for its potential to be unleashed and realized.

Cost, scale, part strength and skills were identified as major obstacles.

Forty-two percent of respondents stated current 3d printing technologies are too expensive, 35 percent stated that the cost of materials is too expensive, 31 percent stated that printed parts are not reliable, and 30 percent reported a lack of expertise.

Recent advances in industrial 3D printing – such as the release of the Essentium High-Speed Extrusion Platform which resolves speed and scale obstacles – are clearing the way for a rapid shift to full-scale production runs using 3D printing in manufacturing.

In fact, the move toward industrial-scale 3D printing in manufacturing is already starting to gain traction.

While traditional simple prototyping is currently the most common use case of 3D printing in manufacturing with 61 percent of survey respondents reporting to use the technology in this way, 60 percent are using the technology to produce manufacturing aids and tooling jigs, close to half, 45 percent, are using it for limited run production parts, while 21 percent are already using the technology for full-scale production part runs.

Blake Teipel, Essentium CEO, says: “The potential of 3D printing in the $12 trillion market that makes up industrial manufacturing – including materials, design cycles, production, manufacturing, supply chain and innovation – is starting to be unlocked and will soon transform the way things are produced and the supply chains involved.

“The results of our survey validate this. It is also hugely encouraging to see how positively our market views the potential of industrial 3D printing and appears to be readying to embrace it.”