2016 was an extraordinary year for additive manufacturing. Most vendors introduced truly manufacturing capable machines thanks to all the research and investment they could do when 3D printing was overhyped. But perhaps the more interesting development in 2016 was the number of big-name companies entering into this industry, with their own investment capital that will help advance this technology further. For example:
Arconic, a company formed from a split of Alcoa in 2016, opened a state-of-the-art 3D printing metal powder production facility. Located at the Arconic Technology Center, the company will produce proprietary titanium, nickel and aluminum powders optimized for 3D printed aerospace parts.
Dow Corning, a global leader in silicones and silicon-based technology, entered this market when it announced a 3D printable silicone rubber.
GE made a lot of moves in additive manufacturing. It is looking to expand its core competencies, which is why it is busy forming partnerships or buying established additive vendors. GE formed a relationship with Local Motors to create Fuse, a business model that will accelerate small batch additive manufacturing. The company recently bought Concept Laser and, as of this writing, tendered an offer for Arcam. GE plans to grow its additive manufacturing business to $1 billion by 2020, which would be impressive.
Henkel Adhesive Technologies, a leader in light cure acrylic, silicone, epoxy, and polyurethane adhesives announced it will develop materials for this industry.
The Michelin Group has been developing its expertise in metal additive manufacturing to produce molded parts too difficult to make using traditional means of production, such as machining and welding. It went into a joint venture with Fives to form the Fives Michelin Additive Solutions, a partnership aimed at developing and marketing industrial machines and production shops through “metal additive manufacturing” technology.
SAP, a developer of enterprise software for managing business operations, is getting into this industry. It is working with Stratasys to establish a global network of 3D printing co-innovation labs. The purpose is to spread the adoption of 3D printing/additive manufacturing.
Siemens has several relationships and partnerships in the additive market. It is working with Stratasys, HP, and Local Motors. Siemens is developing software that will smooth the transition from prototyping to production. Plus, the company recently opened a production facility for metal 3D printed components in Finspång, Sweden.
Siemens is also working with laser system manufacturer Trumpf in a partnership to help industrialize laser metal fusion technology and make the additive manufacturing process for metal parts an integral part of the production process.
Even 30 years in, some think additive manufacturing still has something to prove. Clearly, though, these major vendors in the manufacturing industry think additive has a great deal to offer.