4 Experts Weigh-in: 2021 3D Printing Predictions & Top Manufacturing Challenges

| Essentium

Share

No one could have predicted the impact that 2020 would have on the manufacturing industry.

Once bustling manufacturing floors quickly cleared out and halted production, having a significant impact on their ability to deliver. A recent survey by PwC found that 71% of manufacturing executives named their top concern as the financial impact (both current and future) that COVID-19 would have on their business. However, there are solutions to help minimize the impact.

Significant industry changes from operations to supply chain have opened up new opportunities for manufacturers to explore the benefits of 3D printing. And we’ve seen that 3D printing for manufacturers experienced significant growth.

Essentium recently commissioned a 3rd party report, Trends in 3D Printing at Scale, to further explore the potential, the payoffs and the value of 3D printing for manufacturers. For additional perspective, we also tapped into some of the industry’s brightest minds to share their predictions on the outlook for 2021 and the challenges that manufacturers will face during this transition.

Top 3D Printing & Manufacturing Predictions & Challenges for 2021

3D Printing Growth Will Emerge Stronger but Time to Market is Key

Terry Wohlers  – Principal Consultant & President – Wohlers Associates, Inc. 

Follow Terry: Twitter | LinkedIn 

Prediction
We expect to see a return to strong growth in 3D printing products and services worldwide. The industry grew by 7.5% in 2020, which was better than many had expected. Even so, it pales in comparison to the average growth of 27.4% over the previous 10 years. 

Challenge 
One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is the time between design and bringing a product to market. In some cases, additive manufacturing can be used for both prototyping and production. When it is done well, a product can be rigorously tested and manufactured in a fraction of the time, compared to conventional methods. Using additive manufacturing (AM) for production not only saves time, but also costs associated with creating and maintaining tools, such as molds and dies.  

“One of the biggest challenges manufacturers face is the time between design and bringing a product to market.” @terrywohlers  

 

Additive Manufacturing Will Play a Bigger Part as Supply Chains Experience Risks 

Nora Toure – Founder, Women in 3D Printing 

 

Follow Nora: Twitter | LinkedIn 

Prediction
I predict that the industry will focus on better, more engineering-grade materials as well as a continuous improvement of the machines’ speed and capability to deliver consistent quality parts.  

Additionally, AM will continue to take a bigger part in the overall manufacturing toolkit.  

Challenge
We can’t ignore the massive supply chain failures almost all manufacturers experienced exactly a year ago as COVID-19 became a global problem. Manufacturers are still looking for solutions to mitigate these risks. I believe, as we’ve seen numerous times, that 3D Printing and AM have an important role to play when it comes to limit these risks. 

We can’t ignore the massivesupply chain failures almost all manufacturers experienced as COVID-19 became a global problem. Manufacturers are still looking for solutions to mitigate these risks.” @nora3dp 

 

Early Adopters Will Reap the Rewards While Cost-Cutting Will Remain a Priority 

Pete Basiliere – Managing Director – Monadnock Insights 

Follow Pete: Twitter | LinkedIn 

Prediction
From an end-user perspective, 3D printing’s use for rapid, iterative prototyping will accelerate, reducing the time to revenue for new offerings. Whether 3D printing is used for prototypes or not, more manufacturers will use 3D printers to produce tooling, jigs, and fixtures that cut operating costs and improve finished good quality.   

From a market perspective, the material range will expand across all 3D printing technologies. Significantly, independent suppliers who offer alternatives to captive materials that are available only from the 3D printer manufacturers will drive the expansion.  

I expect the hype surrounding 3D printing to grow significantly, driven by founders’ and early investors’ efforts to reap the rewards of their actions. A few 3D printer manufacturers will continue merging with SPACs, which are being over-hyped in the first place. The result will drive 3D printing hype to levels not seen since 2014, although not as high.  

Challenge
Cutting costs while improving throughput and quality are constantly challenging manufacturers. If product differentiation is minimal in a high-volume market, operations managers must find ways to take costs out of their production processes. Suppose customization and personalization offer high margins in a low-volume market. In that case, managers must find ways to design new products rapidly and swiftly switch production from one finished good to another. 

I expect the hype surrounding 3D printing to grow significantly, driven by founders’ and early investors’ efforts to reap the rewards of their actions.” @petebasiliere 

 

Finding the Right Blend of Experts and Mining the Data Will be Key to Success

Stacey DelVecchio – President – StaceyD Consulting  

Follow Stacey: Twitter | LinkedIn 

Prediction
I feel the industry has only scratched the surface of topology optimization and part consolidation. In order to do this effectively, you need the combined efforts of a design engineer who knows the application and a 3D printing expert who knows the printing capabilities. Finding people with this expertise can be a challenge. Companies often have one, but not the other. 

Challenge
Changing processes, or adding new ones, can be a challenge based on the necessary qualification. While reliability and repeatability of additive processes continues to improve each year, it’s tough to compete with the reliability, repeatability, and available data on competing processes that have been around for decades. So, any data that is available on additive processes in the area of reliability and repeatability is incredibly helpful. 

I feel the industry has only scratched the surface of topology optimization and part consolidation. To do this effectively, you need the combined efforts of a design engineer who knows the application and a 3D printing expert who knows the printing capabilities.” @staceydel 

 

Exploring what the Future Holds 

Thank you to all of our experts for sharing with us the most significant opportunities and challenges that exist within the industry today.  

If you’re interested in learning more, check out the report, Trends in 3D Printing at Scale. 

We’d love to hear your perspective. What do you see as the top trends and challenges for 2021? 

 

Essentium, Inc. provides industrial 3D printing solutions that are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes by bringing product strength and production speed together, at scale, with an open ecosystem and material set. Essentium manufactures and delivers innovative industrial 3D printers and materials enabling the world’s top manufacturers to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining to embrace the future of additive manufacturing.

Share

The Latest Essentium Blog

View More Blogs >