by Mark Norfolk, CEO, Fabrisonic
It is an exciting time to be in the 3D printing industry, especially in the growing segment of 3D printing metals. Over the last few years, we have seen a myriad of exciting applications publicly released in the aerospace and defense sectors. In 2020 and beyond, Fabrisonic expects that the high-tech sector will accelerate its adoption. Also, we are seeing a broader adoption in more mainstream applications such as the automotive market. As more and more applications are unveiled publicly, more risk-averse companies are empowered to adopt with metal 3D printing.
From a technology perspective, the market is still growing with new technologies seemingly emerging every month. From new takes on existing technology, as in Xact Metal, to brand new processes like Digital Alloys, the state of the art in metal 3D printing is quickly evolving. The number of technologies with a plethora of different capabilities leads to one of our strongest predictions– that designers will start to see disparate additive techniques as tools in a larger am toolbox.
For example, we have started working with other metal processes to print parts using the approach of integrating different techniques to meet specific engineering needs. Powder bed fusion (PBF) is great at making small intricate organic structures but is less desirable as size increases. At the same time, our Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing system (UAM) is adept at printing larger structures and excels at integrating small components into a large (6’x6’x3’) build through embedding. By using PBF to create complex fluid structures and then using UAM to embed smaller components into a large structural panel, we have been able to achieve the best of both worlds.
Much like a traditional machine shop has a lathe, a Bridgeport, and a drill press, the manufacturing facility of the future will have a PBF system alongside a UAM system, among others to allow engineers to leverage each process for its unique capability.
Another key development in the near future will be standardization across the industry. Standards are imperative to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing. There are several great efforts in the AM standards movement, including the ASTM Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence and American Petroleum Institute’s 20S Committee. As the standards start to mature, customers will integrate them into their prints. This will give customers assurance that additive manufacturing shops across the board can produce similar quality parts by following industry standards and best practices. Also, this will allow the entry of historical CNC shops to integrate these new technologies into their business. As a result of standards evolution, we expect more mom and pop job shops will start to dip their toe into the world of additive in 2020. At Fabrisonic, we are already seeing a shift in the type of customers placing part and machine inquiries. The shift is moving from the R&D labs of fortune 500 companies to more and more medium-sized tier two and three suppliers.
With more and more players in the market, we expect to see an acceleration in teaming. Not only are larger companies rapidly acquiring smaller players, but there is a trend of businesses with complementary skill sets teaming up to attack a larger market. In 2020, we expect to see more exciting partnership announcements as forward-thinking companies work to create strategic partnerships. For example in 2019, Fabrisonic partnered with a small sensor company, Luna Innovations, to create instrumented quality control technology for powder bed fusion systems. Similarly, industry giants in software and controls are starting to team with hardware vendors to provide complete packaged solutions for 3D printing. We expect these teaming announcements to expand in 2020 and take AM one step closer to open market adoption and the hands of future generations.
The wave of excitement around 3D printing continues to grow in 2020. Fabrisonic looks forward to another great year of innovation.