In 2022, 3D printing made great strides in its development. No longer a niche technology that only enthusiasts, engineers and manufacturers use, 3D printing is now used by a wide variety of industries, including architecture and construction (of impressive 3D-printed buildings), everyday household items and supplementary yet important educational materials.
There are several 3D printing trends that are worth keeping an eye on, as they have the potential to significantly impact the industry and how it is used. Here are a few examples:
1. Increased focus on 3D printing materials
While there are many different types of filament materials, they are simply not enough to cover all the demands, particularly in engineering and application-specific materials.
However, more and more manufacturers are starting to develop specialised materials to meet the custom needs of specific industries. Some of them have become available to the masses, such as PEEK (popular in the aerospace, automotive, medical, and oil and gas industries) and PMMA (commonly used in the dentistry and medical space).
As more industries adopt 3D printing technology, the more likely that companies will create materials specific to their needs.
2. Growth of the Medical and Dental Industries
3D printing is being used in a variety of medical and dental applications, such as the production of custom prosthetics, implants, and dental crowns. As the technology improves and becomes more widely available and affordable, it is likely that we will see more and more medical and dental professionals using 3D printing to create personalised solutions for their patients.
3. Improved resilience and scalability of the supply chain
Supply chain constraints have been a major problem since the pandemic began. Regional lockdowns caused by COVID-19, geo-political issues, and unforeseen catastrophes (such as the Suez Canal blockage and capsizing ships have contributed to the logistical challenges, causing global shortages.
3D printing is being used to help with parts shortages with its rapid production capabilities. The technology is also credited with the decentralisation of supply chains as parts can now be produced on location and by demand.
Physical inventory is one of the weak points of the supply chain. Inventory can now be digitised, which eliminates the cost of transportation and storage. By digitisation, the digital file of a part can be sent to an appropriate production partner anywhere in the world through online means. The part can then easily be reproduced where it’s needed. The automotive industry has seen a 90% decrease in spare parts inventory with 3D printing, according to an MIT report.
4. Propel sustainability further
More companies and people are becoming eco-conscious in their production and consumption. With the increased adoption of 3D printing, you’ll expect a reduction in carbon emissions as parts now require less transportation.
Parts can now also be produced more sustainably as it’s easier to customise the materials and dimensions of a part, leading to waste reduction. On that note, its on-demand production capabilities will also ensure that one can only manufacture parts that they need when they need them, resulting in minimal parts wastage and excess.
5. Research & development will be one of the drivers of 3D printing adoption
Dethroning rapid prototyping, research and development is now the most common 3D printing application, according to a 3D Printing Trends Survey done by Jamil. Coming in closely at second place is rapid prototyping.
Parts production is also one of the fastest-rising applications for companies, jumping from 27% to 62% in two years. Other notable applications are jigs, fixtures, and tooling at 57%, bridge production at 56% (with the healthcare industry being a major adopter) and repair and maintenance at 46%.
Expect bigger and better things from 3D printing!
Overall, these are just a few of the 3D printing trends that are worth keeping an eye on as the technology continues to evolve and become more widespread. Push your business further to gain a more competitive advantage with 3D printing. If you would like your business to be transformed by 3D printing, contact us to get started.