Additive manufacturing / 3D printing (AM/3DP) is destined for continued growth. Products are more easily customized with less waste, using less material, and they can be brought to market faster with expanded options for materials and processes.

Currently, AM/3DP produces less than 1% of the world’s manufactured parts, but as the industry grows, it could triple its market value by 2021 to more than $26 billion.

Applications for AM/3DP include design, concept modeling, fit-and-function testing, patterns for casting, fixturing, tooling, prototyping, short-run production, series production, and custom and replacement part manufacturing.

The technology continues to advance on dual tracks – revolutionary applications that could change how products are designed and built in the future, and evolutionary systems that enhance and support traditional manufacturing.

Radical new design, such as 3D-printed lattice structures that lower part weights by eliminating massive amounts of material without sacrificing structural integrity, are enabling military equipment, space exploration, racecar designs, and medical devices with surfaces customized to promote bone growth. As these technologies mature and prove themselves to users, expect to see new markets develop for AM/3DP processing and materials.

Even in the markets not looking for such radical changes, AM/3DP technologies will play a major role. High-volume, low-mix manufacturers are poor candidates for AM/3DP use as a primary production technology, but they can use jigs and fixtures custom-printed for different workers, plastic injection-molding tooling AM/3DP printed with conformal cooling channels built in, or workholding devices that support oddly-shaped workpieces for machining.

With so many applications on the horizon, technology companies are investing heavily to address AM/3DP shortcomings and highlight benefits of digital systems. In this dynamic market, the Additive Manufacturing Target Guide 2019 offers a look at applications, technologies, and the future of the technology that is reshaping the manufacturing world.

— Elizabeth, Robert, Eric, & Michelle