A recent survey reveals that manufacturing companies are taking a more strategic look at using 3D printing to produce final products. However, the lack of a skilled workforce and the expertise to integrate 3D printing with existing production processes may impact future adoption. Commissioned by Materialise and conducted by B2B International, the survey includes 327 manufacturers in the U.S., Germany, and Japan that use 3D printing (59%), consider doing so (31%), or dismiss the technology (9%).
“Yearslong supply chain disruptions have made companies reevaluate their offshore production strategies and prioritize local manufacturing closer to demand,” said Fried Vancraen, CEO of Materialise. “The severity of these disruptions has also prompted governments to invest in programs aimed at modernizing and nearshoring their production capacity. Digital manufacturing technologies like 3D printing can support these efforts by enabling more resilient supply chains and offering significant time and cost advantages. As companies increasingly turn to these technologies, the 3D printing industry will have to make additional efforts to address the challenges they encounter, including training and workforce development, identifying new business models, and easier-to-use software and hardware.”
In recent years, the 3D printing industry has focused on convincing companies of the unique benefits of 3D printing. This focus on “why” will shift to “how” as manufacturers are familiar with the benefits but lack the knowledge and expertise to adopt and scale up the technology successfully.
“Major manufacturing hubs, including the EU and United States, have announced plans to modernize and re-shore their production efforts,” said Vancraen. “Smart, digital technologies, like 3D printing, enable such a shift to decentralized manufacturing, with multiple smaller-scale production sites that sit closer to customers. But as companies struggle to onboard 3D printing and integrate the technology with existing production environments, the 3D printing industry will need to invest in training, the availability of more materials, ease of use, and cost reduction.”
Despite the challenges, 3D printing remains high on most companies’ priority lists. Companies that have adopted 3D printing will significantly increase their use of the technology over the next 12 months. Over the next five years, most expansion efforts will focus on in-house printing capabilities compared to outsourced 3D printing production.
Though usage may increase, the way manufacturers use 3D printing is not expected to change markedly. Seven out of ten businesses say how they currently use 3D printing is expected to stay the same in the next five years, including producing visual prototypes, personalized parts, and spare parts. However, with increased automation in the 3D printing workflow and access to qualified experts, companies seek to advance their manufacturing operations and create new business opportunities.
An infographic of the survey results is available here: https://www.materialise.com/