Afbeelding blog PontfoortThe term ‘3D printing’ got worldwide attention after an article published in The Economist[i]in April 2012. In the near future moulds and casting, or costly machining of parts and products, would not be required anymore. ‘On demand and on location production’ could be done in the vicinity of the end user. The software that drives the machines allows for designs to precisely meet the demands of the user. Material not used, is saved and used for the next production run, which results in less waste and less pollution.

In both large scale factories and within SME’s, the digitisation of production will have a disruptive effect. The ecosystems in which production takes place will be organised along new lines, with new communication protocols. That is why large and smaller companies are investing heavily in 3D printing. But also governments and regional authorities are looking for ways to make sure that their economy will benefit from these developments.

Issues in business

Financial and industry experts indicate double digit growth for the 3D printing industry. The Wohlers report[i] is the leading source of information in the 3D printing industry. In the 2015 edition the 3D printing market (which includes machines, materials and services) is estimated to have grown with 39,5 %, to $ 7.3 billion in 2015. For 2018 Wohlers estimates a market value of $ 12,7 billion, and $ 21,2 for 2020. He sees the market quadrupling in 5 years.

Whereas 3D printing was initially used primarily for prototyping purposes, the technology has matured in such way that tooling and production parts can now be obtained meeting end product specifications and quality. In many sectors 3D printing is currently used as a valid alternative for traditional production.Refraining from producing parts on stock and 3D-printing them on demand and on location might still be a bridge too far for most mass produced,non personalised products. But for personalised or small series production many 3D printing technologies have matured and service providers are capable of meeting complex, high quality customer demand

Benefits of 3D Printing

The advantages that 3D printing can bring are manifold. The major areas often mentioned are listed below

  • Cost savings;
  • Design improvements;
  • Customisation possibilities;
  • Sustainability advantages;
  • New business models.

Personalisation, small runs and on demand production are also unique selling points for the self-adhesive label and package printing industry, and for this reason the business models of the 3D printing ecosystem also seem to offer interesting perspectives for your industry. On the 12th of June we will deep dive into the possibilities. I am looking forward to an interactive and inspiring session.

Onno Ponfoort | Practice leader 3D Printing at Berenschot, the Netherlands

[i] The Economist (2012). The third industrial revolution. Retrieved April 21, 2012, from: http://www.economist.com/node/21553017
[ii]WohlersAssociate (2015). Wohlers report 2015, Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing state of the industry, annual worldwide progress report.