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3-D Printing Trends to Watch for in 2018

Here are some trends in additive manufacturing we can expect to see in the New Year.

By ·
By ·

Editor’s Note: Mark Dohnalek is President & CEO of Pivot International, the Kansas-based global product development, engineering & manufacturing firm.

We know the entrance of additive manufacturing (aka 3-D printing) has been one of the most influential developments the manufacturing landscape has seen in decades. From rapid prototyping to various other components, the groundbreaking technology has changed the way manufacturers conceive and map-out ideas to product development engineering to supply chain movement. So where is this technology heading? Here are some trends in additive manufacturing we can expect to see in the New Year.


The search for materials.


With companies embracing the use of additive manufacturing and applying it to more and more projects, we can expect a rise in development of materials by different vendors within a company’s supply chain. This new demand for the 3-D process will almost certainly require more flexible and durable material. One example is what MIT has done by creating a method of printing inside a gel-like material that suspends the objects themselves without any support. New ideas, new materials and new uses will definitely create new trends in 2018.


Increased affordability with higher demand.


Right now, additive hasn’t always been feasible for smaller operations or particular products, but as the practice moves to a larger scale, you will see a trend of companies providing material types to address a higher level of accessibility and demand. We can also expect overall changes industry wide that could impact the bottom line for some.  For example, manufacturers and supply chain partners who provide metal materials will need to begin better competitive pricing because as 3-D becomes gains in acceptance and popularity, costs will go down for traditional materials.


Application in a greater number of industries.


We can expect to see more companies across more industries embracing and expanding their use of additive manufacturing including aerospace and automotive companies. The growing uses of 3-D printing will move into tools, fixtures and various other parts and pieces involved in the manufacturing process. Before this technology, a great deal more work was involved in these processes, typically through machining down a block of metal to create what was needed. Now, with the less expensive model, production runs can be smaller and more cost-efficient.


New and better designs.


We will continue to benefit from the ease of rapid prototyping which will lead to designs taking on more iterations simply because there’s more time to explore more design options. And because all of these iterations can easily be saved, designers can refine their ideas through trial and error, by taking bits and pieces from earlier versions to complete the final design. This efficiency will allow for better and more forward-thinking versions than was ever previously possible.


More customization, on a mass level.


Through the digital, 3-D model, manufacturers will be able to further refine their designs, creating a more specialized market for customers looking for specific shapes, colors, sizes or materials in their products. This is perhaps the furthest down the road of the various capabilities of the additive manufacturing process, but the technology will exist, and it will exist soon.

Simply put, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what 3-D printing and additive manufacturing can do but 2018 will bring the process even further along as we prepare for the coming decade. It’s going to be a fascinating, and game-changing, journey.


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