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The Future of 3D Printing Services: Trends and Innovations

3D Printing Services: In 2024, companies with a strong business model will dominate the industry. They will focus on optimizing automationable production lines that enable flexibility in part volume, design, and supply chain resiliency.

New multi-material printers will let businesses encode digital information into the surface texture of products, opening up a world of possibilities for tracking and identification.

1. Continuous Manufacturing

As manufacturers discover 3D printing’s flexibility for prototyping, they want to be able to use the technology for production. However, the mechanical properties of conventional 3D printing methods make it challenging to scale to a high-volume, low-mix manufacturing environment.

Startups offer printer-agnostic design software, hardware solutions, and automated workflow automation software that optimize 3D printing lines for rapid production. They also integrate digital manufacturing and automation systems to streamline production and quality control processes. This enables on-demand manufacturing, reduces lead times, and eliminates manual part processing steps.

Feedstock and binder materials, as well as printing methods, significantly impact the mechanical properties of 3D printed parts. To address this challenge, startups develop novel materials to improve the performance of additive manufacturing for specific use cases, such as consumer electronics and bioartificial organs. Additionally, companies extract high-value 3D printable materials from waste streams to reduce raw material requirements and emissions. This is helping to lower the cost of 3D printing for industrial production.

2. Automated Production

While additive manufacturing continues to evolve from rapid prototyping, it is increasingly integrating into full production workflows. The technology is being used to produce both final products and components for production machines, accelerating time-to-market while decreasing maintenance costs.

In addition, 3D printing Dubai has been incorporated into hybrid manufacturing processes to complement more traditional production methods like injection molding and CNC machining. This enables manufacturers to produce near-net-shaped parts with 3D printing while leveraging a more efficient CNC machining process to achieve tight tolerances.

Another emerging trend in the global automated 3D printing market is the use of open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which enable systems to communicate with one another. This allows for more effective data integration and automation.

Roboze, for example, recently launched the first industrial automation system to incorporate custom-printed super polymers into a metals production workflow for high-end end-user applications. This enables businesses to code digital information into the surface texture of the part, opening up a whole new world of tracking and identification possibilities. The company is also expanding its facilities into the United States, in response to a shortage of critical metals and growing demand from the oil and gas, aerospace, and mobility industries.

3. Automation Ecosystem

In addition to the rapid prototyping applications of 3D printing, it is also being used to create a variety of tools, fixtures, and jigs that are incorporated into production processes. This helps streamline assembly tasks and increases efficiency in automated line operations. For example, automotive manufacturers are using metal and plastic 3D printers to produce bespoke parts and test components ahead of larger manufacturing runs.

Moreover, firms are incorporating software into their hardware to enable a greater degree of automation. This enables users to reduce printer idle time and minimize operator interactions to maximize productivity. For example, Formlabs’ new ‘Automation Ecosystem’ includes the company’s high-volume Form Auto and High Volume Resin hardware packages along with its Fleet Control software, which can be used to boost productivity.

This will enable a range of business applications, from improving productivity in dental labs. And service bureaus to reduce the cost per part produced in factories. It also allows businesses to focus on strategic agility and resilience as automation tools are integrated and synchronized across the enterprise. This is important, given that global conditions — including the conflict in Israel that has affected Stratasys and Nano Dimension — are impacting industry restructuring.

4. Certified Parts

As an additive process, 3D printing generates far less waste than subtractive manufacturing methods such as CNC machining. AI-powered software tools also minimize waste by preventing failed prints and optimizing CAD designs for the printing process. And as a digital fabrication technology, 3D printing allows for distributed manufacturing closer to customers, reducing emissions from shipping and logistics.

In the medical field, 3D printing enables personalized prosthetics and implants that can be customized to an individual’s anatomy. Metals like titanium alloy are used to make bone reconstruction parts and dental restorations.

For product companies, faster prototyping means more time to market for new products. And reduced downtime due to quick deployment of spare parts. For manufacturers, increased speed to market means a greater ability to innovate and capture new revenue opportunities.

5. Electronic Printing

The trend of integrating 3D printing into manufacturing processes continues to grow. Manufacturers are reducing lead times lowering the cost of production, increasing flexibility, and expanding the number of parts they produce.

Software is helping to drive many of these technology milestones. Including slicer optimization and non-planar printing that minimizes ladder effect and eliminates supports for overhangs. Automation is also top of mind and a growing number of software solutions are linking the various stages of a full production workflow to achieve lights-out printing.

In addition, there is a trend toward sharing digital designs on websites like Pinshape. Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory, decreasing transaction costs for printing and increasing social interaction in the 3D community. These trends will revolutionize mass customization and enable new customer value propositions.

For example, a mechanical engineering professor-led team recently used 3D-printed parts to create an artificial human heart that mimics its electromechanical pumping action and physiology. This could be a major step towards developing bio robotic hybrid hearts for transplants and other lifesaving procedures. And it demonstrates the way that engineers are thinking about new products and their applications.

 

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