Formlabs, a leading 3D printing company, released its 2022 3D Printing Applications Report detailing how 3D printing adoption and use cases have evolved over the past two years. Since March 2020, 3D printing adoption rates have skyrocketed as consumer behavior and demands shift, with 4 in 10 respondents adding 3D printing into their workflows, not just for prototyping, but also for end-use production. In fact, three in five recent adopters frequently or always use 3DP for end-use applications in an effort to solve supply chain challenges and meet customer expectations.
The report demonstrates the shift in attitudes around 3D printing from an R&D and prototyping tool to an invaluable manufacturing technology needed to meet evolving consumer preferences and overcome supply chain challenges. Whether working to ease supply chain constraints, creating limited run products, or personalizing devices, businesses have been forced to rethink how they produce goods to meet customer demand. Companies who have adopted 3D printing in the last two years are also more likely to utilize the technology for small batch custom pieces. Small batch custom production enables businesses to meet consumers’ insatiable appetite for the latest trend, from custom headphone tips to the latest sneaker drop.
3D printers have become a manufacturer’s swiss army knife — an adaptable tool that can keep production lines running. Among newer adopters of 3D printing, overcoming supply chain burdens has been a key impetus for utilizing the technology, with one in two (57 percent) respondents stating that their internal 3D printing capabilities are helping to solve supply chain issues. For example, highly customizable products, like hearing aids or dental aligners, require flexible production methods that are cost-effective and fast.
With 3D printing, manufacturers are creating customizable parts in-house, reducing the number of nodes on their supply chain, shortening lead times, and delivering a product at a fraction of the cost. Maxim Lobovsky, co-founder and CEO of Formlabs stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for digital transformation across the economy, especially within manufacturing. Business leaders are recognizing this and scaling up their 3D printing capabilities. Nearly half of the companies surveyed now have dedicated teams focused solely on additive manufacturing, confirming that we have entered the era of mass production and customization with 3D printing.”
The adoption and expansion of 3D printing for end-use production do not appear to have signs of slowing with 64 percent of companies that adopted 3D printing in the last two years reporting that they are planning a medium or large investment in 3D printing in 2022. Additionally, three in four companies believe 3D printing will change the way products are designed by allowing for more customized manufacturing.