Industrial additive manufacturing / 3D printing techniques are reaching full potential with companies investing in machines.
While additive manufacturing (AM) is increasingly used in-house most users still benefit from powder-bed and metal technologies through external services rather than owning and operating 3D printing machines internally.
Additive manufacturing users are mainly CEOs, engineers, and designers who are gaining more experience, as the number of people with five years of experience has increased from 35 per cent to 49 per cent since last year, according to Sculpteo’s ‘The State of 3D Printing’ report. 72 per cent are using 3D printing regularly. Industries that use most 3D printing are Consumer goods (14 per cent), Industrial goods (13 per cent), and Education (11 per cent).
Part optimisation is a growing focus for 3D printing users. One fourth of users use AM to accelerate their product development process, which aligns with the strong use of additive manufacturing for proof of concepts and prototypes.
Additive manufacturing confirms its position as a genuine manufacturing solution used for Research / Education / R&D and for end-use purposes. Most respondents use AM when they need less than 1000 parts and this technology offers considerable advantages in developing projects that create few parts.
Power users are a particular segment of manufacturing users who have more experience with the technology and use the technology for end-use/functional parts (69 per cent), R&D (66 per cent), and tooling (49 per cent). Power users have been using AM in the context of business for more than five years and have invested at least $10k in 3D printing over the last year.
Power users are mainly owner/CEO, researcher/R&D/scientist and engineers. Among the characteristics of power users, the high investment in their 3D printing activity and the number of manufactured parts show their understanding of AM compared to general users. Powers users are much more advanced in adopting this manufacturing strategy and are confident about it.
Polishing is the most common post-processing used. The variety of answers shows a great diversity of post-processing, highlighting a natural interest in a part with excellent quality and a finished aspect. Part quality and post-processing have always been a challenge for the industry. More advanced post-processing is also emerging, like metalisation which is used by ten per cent of respondents.
Forty-one per cent affirm that AM is helping them to reach their sustainable objectives; 25 per cent are using additive manufacturing to accelerate their product development; 33 per cent find that budget is the biggest limit for 3D printing adoption and 84 per cent per cent optimistic about the potential of additive manufacturing in the future.
Regarding the choice of 3D printing materials for their projects, users are looking for accuracy, specific technical properties, and a cost-effective option. More sustainable materials are also important for 81 per cent of 3D printing users.
More prominent companies are going to be spending more of their budget on additive manufacturing, finding new exciting opportunities, and reaching a new level by using additive manufacturing for production and not only for their product development process. They consider this technology a reliable manufacturing process that can fulfil their requirements.
Most respondents strongly use additive manufacturing, saying that 3D printing is integrated or fully integrated into their global strategy. Proving the added value of this technology, 89 per cent of 3D printing users see it as strength or a competitive advantage. Early adoption of 3D printing allows businesses to be more competitive, according to 61 per cent of respondents, who align their budgets and priorities to keep up with their competitors.