What is the future of 3D printing? Away from the hype and Wall Street, what are we actually going to be able to do? What are the challenges in additive manufacturing? Will we be a niche application technology? Or will we be used in conjunction with mass production? Will we be used everywhere? Or only in a few industries? We asked some key leaders in the 3D printing industry to think about the future of AM, and have compiled their responses. We used to believe that 3D printing would replace traditional manufacturing wholesale. “AM will never replace high-volume manufacturing in a like-for-like scenario, i.e., producing the same parts with 3D printing instead of injection molding. Where it will almost certainly become a large-scale manufacturing technology will be when we innovate and design products and applications where the capabilities of 3D printing either massively compress the process chain or add hugely superior functionality that cannot be matched by conventional production methods. For instance, ergonomically customized orthotics and prosthetics, orthopedic implants with highly tuned lattice structures or direct dental aligners produced directly from digital scan data.” People think of builds, parts, or assemblies as being expensive, but if you optimize components for builds and embrace complexity, then the entire product could be made in novel way in which 3D printing is immediately more cost-effective. “Manufacturers are continuing to embrace Industry 4.0 and the IIoT with connected 3D printers being just one piece of that puzzle. Businesses must continue to partner with their IT teams to demonstrate the uses of a 3D printer, or a fleet of printers, for manufacturing as opposed to just an engineering tool.” We know now that 3D printing won’t replace everything, but at the same time we still act as if 3D printing is an island. We have an industry of “Enterprise 3D printing” without much of a way to embed those 3D printers in the enterprise.

Read the full article at 3DPrint.com | The Voice of 3D Printing / Additive Manufacturing