Supply chain, collaboration and sustainability – these are some of the keywords when PLM Group sums up the top trends in the 3D printing world for the new year. Have a read to see what else is in the crystal ball.
With the dawning of a new year we are seeing a lot of predictions for what the year has in store. Here at PLM Group, we have put together some of the most relevant ones in 3D printing. But first, let’s take a look at what happened last year.
Industrial 3D printer shipments rose in 2021
2021 started with a steep uphill. At least according to the industry-leading 3D printing report, the Wohlers Report. The report stated that the 3D printing industry grew by 7.5 percent in 2020, much due to covid. It’s a big decline from the average annual growth of roughly 27 percent in the past decade. Industrial 3D printer sales took the most severe blow. Many industries that have begun deploying 3D printing for end-use parts, such as aerospace, took a big hit during the pandemic.
But late last year, a survey from CONTEXT, an IT market intelligence company, confirmed that 3D printer shipments in 2021 had grown significantly from 2020 and the company believes that the levels should recover by this year. Last year, sales of industrial 3D printers (those costing over 100,000 euro) increased 61 percent.
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Sustainability and 3D printing go hand in hand
Sustainability has always been a core topic in relation to 3D printing. Several initiatives and launches last year put sustainability in the limelight. The organization AMGTA, or Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association, grew with more members last year. It is a global trade organization that was created to promote the environmental benefits of additive manufacturing. With 38 companies, including 3D Systems, Siemens, ExOne, BASF and Stratasys, they are poised to push the sustainability agenda globally.
Here in the Nordics, a cooperation between the Danish 3D printing organization AM HUB and Wikifactory. Wikifactory is social platform for product development and allows everyone to create products online regardless of physical location. Together, the two entities aim to create a solid, cloud-based, agile product development system that enables safe, real time and on-the-go collaboration between engineers and designers from reputable companies and quality-assured 3D printing agencies from any device.
3D print to increase supply chain resilience
Obviously, a massive topic of the past couple of years has been supply chains and logistics. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated weaknesses in existing global supply chains, but other factors like climate change and the obstruction of the Suez Canal in 2021 have really driven home that global networks need to be rethought and reinforced.
Covid, climate change and the clog in the Suez Canal made last year hellish for many companies. Many struggled to source components and parts. In the aftermath of these challenges, there will be a continued and more mature focus on using 3D printing to make supply chains stronger and more resilient. Here in Europe, the CECIMO, an EU based umbrella organization for machine tool industries, stated that:
“One of many lessons we have learned during the last two years is the importance of reducing international dependencies and increasing supply chains’ resilience.”
“In the European industry strategy, the European Commission has decided to tackle these issues by mapping dependencies/vulnerabilities, investing in technologies that allow greater flexibility and agility, and promoting new business models that could foster on-site production. The EC indicated AM among those technologies and therefore we can expect more supportive regulations to help market uptake of AM in the future.”
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Collaboration for better 3D print usage
To collaborate in order to offer better solutions is no news in the 3D printing world. There are several examples of successful integrations and cooperations. But in order for 3D printing to be utilized as a manufacturing technology, It needs to blend in to traditional manufacturing
“As digital manufacturing continues to drive 3D printing, the agility being realized within the on-demand production ecosystem will expand rapidly beyond additive technologies to increasingly embrace traditional manufacturing solutions such as injection molding and CNC metal fabrication.”, says Rush LaSelle, Senior Director of Digital Manufacturing at contract manufacturing giant, Jabil.
Personalization and production in the Nordics
Here in the Nordics, we have seen quite a massive uptake in 3D printing in the last few years. Apart from the go to tool for prototypes, producing end-use parts with 3D printing has increased in all Nordic countries. We sat down with one of PLM Group´s 3D printing experts, Christoffer Wester, to look into the crystal ball.
Which 3D printing trends will grow the most in 2022 in the Nordics?
“We will continue to see more and more production with 3D printing”, says Christoffer Wester. That means higher volumes at lower cost, combined with improved and automated post processing. This will also have a positive impact on the supply chain problems we face today, with soaring costs in global transportation and manufacturing.”
What technology breakthroughs do you see happening in 2022?
“We are still waiting for metal to happen but see little real interest from the market. With our focus on production, we see more and more need for automation in both production, post-processing and handling. That might also include software.”
And which industries will grow the most in 2022?
“We see a lot of interest from personalized gear and medical equipment such as orthosis and shoe implants. This is an area where additive manufacturing excels because of its flexibility and “complexity at no extra cost”.”