3D Printing Market is expected to witness high growth during the forecast period. The overall market is expected to grow from USD 9.9 billion in 2018 to USD 34.8 billion by 2024, at a CAGR of 23.25%.
How potential to improve manufacturing processes and enhance supply chain management could unravel new opportunities in this market?
From its initial applications in designing and prototyping, 3D printing is now shifting toward the manufacturing of functional parts. 3D printing can help overcome various challenges (such as higher tooling costs) associated with traditional manufacturing processes employed for rapid prototyping and short production runs, among others, as 3D printing eliminates the tooling requirement, unlike the traditional manufacturing process. Although the traditional manufacturing would cost less per unit produced, it poses high initial cost in the form of tooling, leading to more expensive low-volume manufacturing. The 3D printing technology also helps reduce the waste produced during the manufacturing process by building part layer-on-layer. Mass customization is another area where 3D printing has an advantage over the conventional manufacturing, particularly for short production runs.
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It is still uncertain what parts would be printable in the future using 3D printing, whose production might not be feasible with the conventional manufacturing methods. Despite this uncertainty, 3D printing has the potential to upgrade the supply chain management that may affect the logistics link between manufacturers and customers in certain types of products or parts. The 3D printing market has also been experiencing advancements in printers and printing technologies, improvement in printing materials, and development in the skill set of the associated workforce.
Why threat of copyright infringement pose a key challenge?
3D printers are likely to become very common with the increasing use of this technology along with the expiry of patents. Companies have already started uploading their files on websites for customers to choose their products, followed by shipping of these products to the customers. Owing to such increased usage, customers may expect a higher degree of customization for the products they purchase. The rise in consumer adoption may lead to increase in 3D piracy, i.e., the ability of customers to manufacture the products by themselves instead of buying them from suppliers. Some companies have also started sharing 3D files on their websites, which has further increased the threat of piracy. This may result in the unauthorized replication of the copyright-protected designs, which is a major concern for designers in the industrial 3D printing market.
Development of new industrial-grade 3D printing materials
The materials used in 3D printing are equally important as the printers. Polymers have been the most commonly used materials in 3D printing in the past; however, metals, ceramics, and even biocompatible materials are now being made available for 3D printing. The development of new materials for 3D printing would further help expand the application area of 3D printing methods into niche sectors, such as printed electronics, and energy and power industries.
Limited availability and high cost of materials
A greater range of raw materials is available for the traditional manufacturing than that available for the 3D printing-based manufacturing processes. 3D printing of products with mixed materials and technology, such as circuit boards, are still under development. Though the technology is a major process breakthrough, the materials that can be used are still limited. Also, the accuracy and reproducibility of the products formed by 3D printing is hampered due to the lack of proper standards concerning the mechanical properties of the materials used.
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