2019 is poised to become the breakthrough year when 3D metal printing advances beyond prototyping to finally deliver on its promise to revolutionize manufacturing technology. Additive manufacturing (AM) will become the preferred choice for complex, high value and mission-critical applications. Manufacturers will accelerate their transformation by increasingly adopting AM for a wider variety of parts. Service bureaus will accelerate adoption to better serve manufacturing customers (OEMs) and thus grow and differentiate their own business.
We see three major shifts:
(1) Manufacturers that have seen success with additive in production will commit more parts, part families or entire products to additive manufacturing.
These manufacturers are now harvesting significant business results from the investments they made over the years. In years past, manufacturers validated the technology, built expertise and executed trials, prototyped and built proofs of concepts. They selected their first ‘lighthouse’ parts and with a leap of faith brought it to production. They experimented, learned and refined workflows, demonstrating value enabled by AM critical for their organization, be it improving performance, or accelerating time to market, or as part of cost reduction for high-value parts.
These manufacturers will accelerate the adoption by expanding the use cases beyond single parts to designing entire systems, such as engines or pumps with additive manufacturing or driving adoption across more products and product families.
These advanced manufacturers understand the industry challenges. This coming year, they will look for solutions that will help them to accelerate their plans, enable better part design and first print yield, and provide manufacturing engineers with a more robust path to production.
They will look for more design freedom to reduce complexity, to increase the robustness of the workflow and to reduce the cost of machining. They will look to 3D metal printing solutions that predictably execute parts previously considered impossible, and that make challenging parts easier to expand the path to production.
They will look for solutions to provide an easy-to-use workflow that includes simulation and assistance in trade-offs of part performance, quality and cost.
They will look for manufacturing systems that deliver parts with high quality and predictability to accelerate the flow to production.
(2) For manufacturers with mixed results or no results yet, 2019 will be the year to reconsider AM.
These manufacturers invested in understanding additive technologies. In some cases, there has been a lot of prototyping, and small volume of non-critical parts, but the value proposition of additive manufacturing was not yet realized, often because the manufacturing business case was not complete: not enough capability, the workflow too hard, or the quality not predictable enough. Across aerospace, oil & gas, industrial and orthopedic applications, for many designs, however, the current design for AM (DfAM) rules caused severe trade-offs and thus limited manufacturing adoption.
With new capabilities available, these companies will look for broader design freedom, more workflow robustness and predictable manufacturing quality for their parts. In 2019, new capabilities and solutions are available, so these manufacturers can reconsider AM for manufacturing with far better results. For example, high value, long-life products can now be cost-reduced with additive manufacturing solutions without the need to change the design for additive, overcoming a key barrier that held them back before.
(3) Service bureaus or Contract Manufacturers will accelerate adoption of new capabilities to better serve OEMs and grow and differentiate their business.
This creates an opportunity for established service bureaus to accelerate their transformation from prototyping to manufacturing partners of OEMs. They will look to acquire and develop new capabilities that differentiate their business. There are many upstream opportunities to better engage with customer part developments with new capabilities, for example, a better CAD-based workflow working closely with part designers. There are downstream opportunities to provide services to produce more consistent part quality and integrate with OEMs quality systems.
2019 offers a prime opportunity for new contract manufacturers to begin offering additive manufacturing. As the path to volume manufacturing and predictable returns becomes clearer, and new technologies address long-term industry gaps, new opportunities across all industries are emerging quickly creating compelling business cases.
2019 will be an exciting year for 3D printing, establishing additive manufacturing as an obvious and preferred choice to volume produce complex, high value and mission-critical applications.