The use of 3D printing is exploding globally. However, in Denmark only four percent of the manufacturing industry uses the technology effectively. This poses a threat to Danish competitive power, according to a new report.
Growth in the use of 3D printing to rapidly create better products is exploding in the world’s largest economies. The price of the technology, also known as Additive Manufacturi
ng (AM), has reduced exponentially in recent years.
At the same time, it has become possible to 3D-print in several materials such as ceramics and metals, which has paved the way for new applications. The combination of these factors means that still more international companies deploy the technology.
A new report 3D printing in Danish companies from the Danish Technological Institute shows that Denmark is lagging dramatically behind when it comes to the use of 3D printing to create new, innovative and better products. As many as 80 percent of the companies that base their business on innovation have not yet employed 3D printing, and only four percent of the surveyed companies are using 3D printing on a regular basis as a strategic technology.
The report also states that 3D printing is becoming mature enough to be used by manufacturers. The technology can especially provide major advantages in production of smaller quantities of parts and in pilot production using rapid prototypes.
A recent project done by PLM Group with the Danish plastics company Vilecon has shown that 3D printing can reduce the tooling price for injection molding by 95 percent.
Better products faster with 3D printing
With Rapid Prototyping (RPT), the time from idea to finished product can be significantly reduced because it is possible to test and adjust several variants of parts to quickly and effectively optimize them. Moreover, RPT also allows the companies to carry out larger parts of the product development in-house rather than being forced to outsource the tasks to often very expensive subcontractors.
81 percent of the surveyed companies are producing parts in smaller quantities or doing pre-production examples of new products either very often or from time to time. Today only a minority of these companies actually produce or prototype using 3D printing / RPT although a lot of them could greatly benefit from it.
In a press release in connection with the publication of the report, Claus Erichsen from the center for product development at the Technological Institute says: “Faster and easier development of prototypes is also a prerequisite for continuing to remain competitive, but also to maintain a high level of product innovation and have the potential for quicker launc
hes of new products.”
Significant potential for 3D printing
According to the report, most of the Danish companies actually using 3D printing for product development are found in electronics, plastic, glass and concrete industry as well as companies manufacturing electronic appliances. The report points out that a large number among the 80 percent of companies that do not utilize 3D printing technology, have processes suitable for AM. Overall, this means that there is considerable potential to use the technology to make prototypes and improve products in Danish manufacturing industry.
In connection with the report, DTI interviewed managers of small and medium-sized Danish manufacturing companies with 5 to 250 employees around their use of 3D printing in corporate product development. The report was prepared as part of the project Production in Denmark funded by the Danish State Agency for Science and Innovation.
Faster, cheaper and better technology
3D printing is far from being a new technology. In fact it has been around since the mid-1980s. In recent years the cost of printers has been reduced dramatically, which has ma
de it possible for even small businesses to get on the bandwagon. At the same time, both technologies, materials and thus applications of 3D printing are developing rapidly.
In just a few years, there has been an explosion in the number of patents obtained by both suppliers of equipment and materials and large manufacturing companies. In 2004, there were 47 patents granted. In 2014, the number has grown to 1,269. Traditionally, most patents were granted to American companies, but more Asian companies are beginning to enter into the patent game.
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Nordic and Baltic Business Development Manager, Additive Manufacturing, PLM Group