3D Printing: The Near Future & Market Opportunities Explored

The 3D printing process was invented by Chuck Hill in 1983, named, as ‘stereolithography’ as a technique for constructing solid entities by sequentially printing thin films of ultraviolet material over one another. This technique laid the foundation of present scenario of 3D printing. The modern definition of 3D printing can be defined as an additive engineering process to generate a physical entity from a digital source or design. Today, there are various 3D technologies and material available in the market, but all follow the same standardised procedure: a solid material from a digital design by adding consecutive layers. A typical 3D printing initiated with a forming of digitalized design file of a physical entity. The next step varies with technology and material used, commencing from system printers to melt the material and place it down onto printing platform. The time is highly dependent on the printing size, and often post-processing events. The common printing techniques include fused deposition modelling, stereolithography, digital light processing, selective laser sintering, polyjet and multijet modelling, binder jetting, and metal printing (selective laser melting and electron beam melting). The materials for printing varies by printing options, ranging from rubber, plastics (polyamide, ABS, PLA, and LayWood), ceramics, biomaterials, sandstone, metals and alloys (titanium, aluminium, steel, cobalt-chrome and nickel).

The 3D printer is advantageous as they offer construction of complex designs which cannot be produced by traditional methods, customization of products with no supplementary detailing or tooling, and no additional pricing, and creating a hope for entrepreneurs or designers in cost effective production for market testing or other needs. In addition, the traditional methods for manufacturing an entity generate a huge amount of waste of raw materials, for instance, bracket manufacturing lavish nearly 90% of the raw material. On the other hand, 3D printing manufacturing process involve minimal wastage of material and can be recycled in the next cycle.

However, the concept of 3D modelling often associated with drawbacks such as high cost of large production, restricted strength and durability, and lower quality resolution. Moreover, there are more than 500 3D printing materials available in the market, most are made from plastics and metals. However, owing to rapid technological advancement, the number of materials is increasing briskly comprising wood, composites, meat, chocolates, and so on.

As exemplified by public sources, by 2027, one tenth of world’s production will be 3D printed. Consequently, the cost of printers will drop from $18,000 USD to $400 USD in upcoming 10 years. Therefore, various companies have started their 3D printed production such as dominating shoe companies as well as in aircraft constructions. Evolving technology will create a scenario where smartphones were fortified with scanner allowing to build anything at home, for instance, China has created a complete 6-story building by using 3D printing technology.

The 3D printing has diverse applications in the fields of medical, manufacturing, sociocultural, and industrial. Based on manufacturing applications, the field is divided into agile tooling, food, research, prototyping, cloud-based additives, and mass customization. Based on medical application, the field is distributed into bio-printing devices and medicines. For instance, in August 2015, 3D printed surgical bolt device, named, ‘FastForward Bone Tether Plate’ was approved by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of bunion. In addition, in May 2017, the researcher of Max Plank Institute for Intelligent Systems, Germany developed a micro-machine, named, microswimmers, by using 3D printer technology of Nanoscribe GmBH, for precisely delivering drugs to the site of infection and can be controlled inside the body. Various industries have adopted 3D printing technology for manufacturing their products. For instance, Airbus SAS, France declared that its product, Airbus A350 XWB contains more than 100 3D printed components. The astronautical industries have developed a 3D printer through the collaboration of NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and Made In Space, Inc. for printing in zero gravity.

It’s Market

The Global 3D Printing Market is projected to reach by 2022 is USD X.X, from X.X in 2015 at a CAGR of X.X% from 2016 to 2022 as per the latest updated report available at DecisionDatabases.com. The market is segmented on basis of printer type, material type, material form, software, service, technology, process, vertical, application, and geography.

Based on printer type, the market is segmented on the basis of desktop 3D printers and industrial printers. Based on the material type, the market is segmented as plastics, metals, ceramics, and other (wax, laywood, paper, biomaterials). Based on material form, the market is segmented on the basis of filament, powder, and liquid. Based on software the market is segmented on the basis of design software, inspection software, printer software, and scanning software. Based on technology the market is segmented on the basis of stereolithography, fused deposition modelling, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, polyjet printing, inkjet printing, electron beam melting, laser metal deposition, digital light processing, and laminated object manufacturing. Based on the process the market is segmented on the basis of binder jetting, direct energy deposition, material extrusion, material jetting, powder bed fusion, vat photopolymerization, and sheet lamination. Based on vertical the market is segmented on the basis of automotive, healthcare, architecture & construction, consumer products, education, industrial, energy, printed electronics, jewellery, food & culinary, aerospace & defence, and others. Based on the application the market is segmented on the basis of prototyping, tooling, and functional parts.

By geography, the market is segmented on the basis of North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Middle-East and Africa

The factors such as high investments in Research and development (R&D), low wastage of raw material, and ease of constructing tailored products propel the growth of the market. However, the factor such as restricted availability of printer, high pricing of materials, and the dearth of skilled professionals impede the market growth.

Molecular Assimilation – Is That the Future of 3-D Printing?

Now that the entire concept of 3-D printing has been introduced to the world, and mind you it’s nothing new, not really – people are now considering all the possible applications. For instance, think about the future of 3-D printing at the molecular level, call it molecular assimilation if you will. Not long ago, I was discussing this with an acquaintance half way around the world. Let’s talk.

You see, even if can “replicate” things, what about authenticity? Namely; “is it real or is it Memorex” as the old TV commercial used to say. My acquaintance told me the she believed; “Yes, I do think it would be good to have that replication, if or when it becomes available. People of the future will have the same need as we have, to refer to examples.” Still, as an artist she also worried that the replication of great artwork from the molecular level up, it just isn’t the same, is it?

Indeed, this is true and this speaks to the issue of “Authenticity” and I agree, but will humans in the future see it that way. For instance, today people are giving up their privacy, something the older generation is completely bothered by, perhaps because they know their history, with authenticity fall the wayside in a similar fashion? I don’t know.

Remember the food on the Starship Enterprise, any dish you want – tastes the same, is the same, identical, duplicated, but it isn’t the same is it? For instance, it lacks the real world bacterial counts, those test our immune system, keep us up to speed, living in a sterile environment might be more damaging when an invasive virus or bacteria comes along.

There were some sick Apes in the San Diego Zoo, in California. They fed them their favorite fruit but they kept getting sick – scientists went to their native land found that fruit had bugs in it, those bugs were triggering a certain enzyme that they had evolved in the rain forest to protect them from getting sick. They then flew in the fruit with the bugs in it, quarantined in a special container, and the apes got better immediately. Authenticity is real.

Nature is best with its minor flaws, who would want ever tree of a certain species to look identical? Where is the nuance, or the fun in that, who wants to live in a perfect world? Some might say that perfection sucks, and for brain waves that seems to be true, but again, I digressed, and maybe all this is a good thing. So, I leave you with that thought on the future of 3-D because, well, it’s about to change everything. Please consider all this and think on it.