The lack of improvement in throughput places even more pressure on manufacturers to reduce the cost of materials, which are highly specific to each machine. "Materials are being sold at very high margins right now," said Vicari, "so there's a market for independent material suppliers."
Many different types of materials are involved in each printer's materials set; for instance, various additives for polymers to control melting temperature and flexibility. For metals, this is less true, but they still require custom development.
Even so, printer companies are only offering a few materials with their machines, compared to what's potentially available. By 2025, there will probably be a more open market with third-party materials suppliers selling many more materials choices. Meanwhile, some 3D printer companies, especially smaller and newer ones, are partnering with materials companies.
Users of printers often don't have access to controls, like modifying the chamber temperature for a given material. But once these machines move into production, not prototyping, where every large company has their own process engineers, these customers will want to have more control over the process and the materials, said Vicari.
Business relationships and business models will also change. For example, last November, Morris Technologies, a service bureau that worked primarily with aerospace engine components, was acquired by GE Aviation, which makes aircraft, military, and marine engines.
This makes me wonder whether more aerospace companies might adopt 3D printing and other AM techniques by outright acquisition, instead of investment or monetary support of various kinds, such as Lockheed's partnership with Sciaky. I also wonder whether machines and materials sets will become more customized for first, specific markets, and second, for individual, very large OEMs.
Interesting report, Ann. I am not surprised that the consumer space will only be a small portion of the market growth, and that prototyping and small-volume manufacturing will contribute to most of it. But I think a lot of people who don't follow the industry might not realize this because, as you said, consumer products get a lot of play (and of course, are sexier to the general public than manufacturer's use of 3D printing). But all in all, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Thanks for your comments, Elizabeth. I've been writing about this space for awhile, but was surprised at what a small proportion of the market comprises consumer applications right now. Those are what's getting all the media attention from the non-technical press, since they've got the sci-fi magic-like appeal of "instantly" creating something.
As you probably know and may have written about already, a company called ExOne recently had its IPO. Their printers can print in brass, stainless steel and sand. They can print pretty large objects. Their website says the Navy uses the printers to print out-of-production parts for old ships. The process is far cheaper than going out to bid for someone to make them.
Cabe, prototypes made with 3D printing have definitely transformed the early stages of manufacturing and design. The next transformation will be in low-volume production parts. I really wonder how hard it will be--or how long it will take--to get increases in both resolution and throughput, especially now there are so many R&D projects going full blast to improve processes and throughput that we might all be wrong about that, too. Stay tuned for some new partnership announcements furthering that R&D.
78RPM, thanks for your comments and the info on ExOne--we did write about them and what they're doing with metals and other materials: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=252293 But we like to hear about new players in this widening industry.
Yes, Ann, the consumer space is always a bit sexier than the B2B or OEM space, even if it doesn't have as much impact on a market. Eventually it will probably catch up, but in many cases with a new technology (depending on what it is, of course) the consumer market is really the last to catch on to a trend.
Elizabeth, I think here the idea is that volumes of consumer 3D-printed objects will never get close to commercial volumes because usage will be so different. Consumers are expected to buy a printer and only use it occasionally, compared to the much higher usage rate of businesses who need to maximize their ROI. For example, the dental labs producing 60 to 70 models per day we wrote about here http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=261369
Ann , according to me you are absolutely correct . Usage of 3D Printers will have a boost in professional industry but for consumer usage it wont be that usefull because of certain limitations out of which cost is the most important one .Production of specified item will be very costly as compared to manually printed item.Secondly printing process is very slow no doubt the results are out class but because of speed and cost it wont be considered as a necessity for consumer ,However commercialy these printers will be on the top .
Ann, the biggest hurdle to 3D printing ever catching and surpassing conventional molding is the high-volume throughput capability of injection molding. Typical molded parts (components of super high volume products like iPhones) are injection-molded in about 20 seconds -- usually with multiple cavities – so routine production yields 3 parts/minute per cavity.
So, accepting that AM methods will never be able (did I say never-?) to reach this "run-rate", then the logical application of the 3D methods is to print the tooling; not the parts.
Even after great strides have been made in slashing tooling lead-times over the past 15 years, tool-makers lead-times are still measured in "weeks" (4-6 is average) for conventional mold tools. Imagine if toolmakers simply printed the mold base using an advanced SLS method for metals; a mold base typically taking 2 weeks to complete could be measured in hours.
Accordingly, my vision of the3DP & AM industry points at tooling -- I just cannot imagine the part processing ever matching market demand.
Having been involved with rapid prototyping since the mid-late 90's and in the plastics industry for longer, I understand what you are saying. Will AM replace high volume production? I can't say that is will. I do believe that with the improvements in the available materials, accuracy of the machines, and their increased capabilities, I can see AM having a significant impact on low volume or quick turn parts. If I can get 10-20 or even 100 parts that will perform as needed in the same time it would take to build a mold, it becomes the obvious choice. Companies like Invisa-Line creating custom orthodontics, or Rausch making custom 1-off racing parts is where this technology is already transforming manufacturing. I see this growing and becoming more wide spread as time goes on. As more become aware of the capabilities, as well as understanding the limits, parts can be designed accordingly. Think of the metal to plastics conversion. The designs had to change to account for different properties, and as people became more educated accordingly, other features not possible in metal were added. Assemblies can be simplified by designing the molded parts differently. If the same approach it taken with AM, I think the sky is the limit.
Jim, so far most pundits are not saying 3D printing and AM will affect the high end of production, as the Lux analyst points out, and for the reasons you cite. It's low-volume parts that will likely be transformed. Tooling is also a target for some of the R&D funded by NAMII.
Much of what we are all agreeing on, is easy to agree on – because we all see the reality, Today. On the other hand, market forecasts 20 years into the future are a lot tougher to get accurate.
"Plastics Engineer" described the economic viability of 3DP & AM, when small quantities are required. AGREED - Perfect application. "78RPM" describes quick fabrication of long-obsoleted replacement parts. AGREED - Another perfect application. ,,,And the theorizing about placing these "replicators" on other planets for space missions is absolutely fantastic. It is truly exciting and encouraging to know that we currently possess the capabilities to do these things.
While I embrace all of these realities of today and hopes of tomorrow, I struggle with accepting the forecasts offered by Lux in this report. Maybe they're all spot-on; but maybe they're way-off-base. Lux makes the statement: " ,,,3DP will become $1.9B by 2025,,," If forecasting, why not an even $2.0B-? Such forecasts are a lot harder for me to "swallow" than the pure technology capability.
Yes, JimT, After tripling my money by investing in Stratasys, 3D Systems, and ExOne I decided to take my profit. The expectations of growth built into the stock prices is too high. But as Yogi Berra said, "It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future." I keep an eye on game changing ideas. Is there anything in 3D printing applications that will change the need to produce stuff at all? Emphasize the word applications. We don't have to own stuff as long as we have access to it. That's true of the printers as well as other things. Consider Zipcar, for example, or websites that permit people to rent out their bedroom or their ladder or whatever. Maybe mass production is unnecessary if people share and rent stuff more.
Jim, if Lux says $1.98B instead of $2.0, it's because all the data they put together added up to $1.98B. These are not seat-of-the-pants or back-of-the-envelope figures, nor does it make sense to round off when the difference represents such a huge amount.
Ann- Maybe I sounded cynical, as you explain that $1.98B is based on all data tallied. But isn't all the data at best only theoretical extrapolations? Put more loosely, an educated guess. I think forecasters intentionally say things like $1.98 B instead of $2.0 B because it makes them look very specific, adding credence to the theoretical accuracy. But c'mon. it's just a SWAG.
Don't get me wrong – I also feel the trends they are discussing are heading the same direction they are publishing. It's just that I would not be so bold as to state a twenty year extrapolation down to two decimal places.
Jim, having participated in market research, I know how specific the data that goes into the numbers can be. Is it hypothetical? Well, of course: any predictions are. But some are obviously based on much more and better data and a better understanding of how markets work than others. So no, the good ones, like Lux, do not do SWAGs. If they did, no one would bother to pay for it. And two decimal places make a very big difference indeed when we're talking about millions of dollars.
The editor of Wired has said 3D printing will be bigger than the Internet. If Lux's numbers are right, there will be a thousand-fold increase in the market for 3D's use in small-volume manufacturing in the next 12 years ($1 million to $1.1 billion). I don't know any field of technology that can match those numbers.
The number is amazing, isn't it Pubudu? If a market doubles in 12 years, that's said to be a fast-growing market. Here, it's growing a thousand-fold. Of course, this is a brand new market, rather than a mature market. But even so, a thousand-fold is an extraordinary growth figure.
Yes Charles, now the technology is there and its working properly and well tested. Now what they have to do is maximize the speed of the printer. I am sure that it will happen in near future and manufactures will move to printing where will give the more flexibility in changing the designs.
Pubudu, You are absolutely correct that 3D printing is changing the design industry. Although, I do agree with article that small scale manufacturing using 3D printing for prototypes is more practical than on a larger scale. Traditional manufacturing techniques are and will be the norm for handling large volume production runs because of the massive throughput required.
"market for 3D's use in small-volume manufacturing in the next 12 years ($1 million to $1.1 billion). I don't know any field of technology that can match those numbers."
I have a feeling that the problem with this statement, is that $1m undervalues the current market size by probably a factor of 10-30. There is about $1m/yr and growing in just the RepRap (and similar FDM machines) market. When all 3D printer markets are combined, it has to be significantly higher, or it would not be supporting as many salaries as it does today.
Totally_Lost, I love your screen name :) Regarding undervaluing, I doubt it, because you are mentioning intermediary/middleman businesses, and market research figures usually measure the products sold, not salaries.
It is true that current 3D printers cannot attain production speeds. But they can create jobs and improve process productivity. What if an architect model maker could print a model in two hours instead of hand building it in two weeks. The architect gets the proposal to the customer two weeks earlier and the project can proceed earlier and get construction workers to work earlier.
Some companies and government offices use antiquated equipment by economic necessity. If a part is no longer in production, 3D printing a part can save the machine. I imagine a fan blade or impeller that is typically stamped from sheet metal; but maybe its efficiency could be improved by varying the edge thickness. 3D printers could print a mold and the manufacture could be done by molding metal powder. I think I recall Ann writing about NASA considering sending 3D printers to asteroids and Mars and the moon to print equipmenet out of indigenous materials --And about medical doctors being able to print equipment in remote locations without having to warehouse every tool they might need. It's an exciting time.
78RPM, you're right about NASA considering 3D printing for astronauts. NASA is also using it to make rocket engine PARTS, not prototypes. And thanks for the point about the MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) uses--the military is also considering 3D printing for MRO in the field, as several aircraft manufacturers already do.
Here's some interesting research being conducted at MIT's Self-Assembly Lab where 4D printing is being realized. According to the Principal Scientist/Founder of the Self-Assembly Lab, Skylar Tibbits, he defines 4D as time. His definition of Self Assembly is " a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through only local interaction." I've included links to his TED talk link and the Self Assembly Lab for additional information. His vision is to eliminate the complexities of construction and manufacturing using programmable materials that create new structures using passive energy. Very interesting stuff!!!
Thanks, mrdon. We covered that discovery here: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=260118 I refused to use the term "3D" in the title or the article, because it's pure hype. The technology, however, is not hype.
I think right now one impediment to "additative manufacturing" is the limited number of materials available for the process. That number increases at an ever-growing rate due to the probablility of success for the technology. I work with a machine shop that has made the investment in 3D printing to provide answers relative to "form, fit and function". Solid modeling can only go so far and most engineers like to kick the tires. Another great benefit is being able to provide marketing and sales a prototype to show customers. I have attended several focus groups in which models were presented to get consumers' opinions relative to design and limited function. These models were definitely preferable to on-screen presentations and demonstrated the part could be manufactured. Also, a model is great when you are designing tooling and fixtures for in-plant use. Excellent post Ann.
bobjengr, I think you're right about the materials angle, which is why Lux addressed that issue. OTOH, there are a lot more 3D/AM techniques for metal than has been apparent, which we're continued to report on. For instance, Monday's article on the Pratt & Whitney lab at the U of Connecticut: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=262205
Uidea Rapid Prototype, "traditional manufacturing" usually refers to methods such as injection molding for making high volumes. I'm not sure how a rapid prototype company such as yourselves would be threatened by the topics discussed here. Can you clarify your question?
Hi, I think the subtractive manufacturing itself and the techniques which use subtractive manufacturing processes are traditional manufacturing, like injection molding, die casting, CNC milling, CNC turning, sheet metal fabrication, extrusion, etc, while additive manufacturing should be the future manufacturing such as the 3D printing we are talking here, SLS, FDM, SLA and so on.
The popular rapid prototyping techniques we have been using in China include CNC machining, vacuum casting/silicone casting, sheet metal prototyping, rapid tooling, reaction injection molding, extrusion prototyping and so on, all of them are subtractive manufacturing or need use subtractive manufacturing processes. Also, more and more prototype parts are being or will be made by 3D printing. So 3D printing would be big threaten to traditional rapid prototyping company like us.
Uidea Rapid Prototype, thanks for the clarification. I can see how 3D printing techniques might look like a threat. Some companies that do rapid prototyping and small volume manufacturing are using several different methodologies including 3D printing, depending on which works best in a given component.
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