I’m reading an article by Robert Grace discussing the state of standardization of 3D printing within the industrial space.
Grace points out that:
But additive manufacturing – while continuing to make strides related to process speeds and to compatible material options – still faces hurdles when it comes to broader application. Despite its multi-decade history, AM still in many ways is an emerging technology suffering from typical growing pains.
As a result, many manufacturers do not yet possess a good understanding of how best to effectively design parts for the process, or how even to integrate it into their traditional manufacturing models. The lack of international product standards and process certifications also pose potential challenges to wider-spread adoption, especially for direct-manufactured commercial parts.
This is often true, as the technologies being used today are poorly understood by the majority of manufacturers, and it doesn’t help that 3D printing companies are constantly introducing new products, materials and concepts. Certainly these improvements provide immediate benefits, but they add to the confusion in the space.
A key point in the article is the notion that 3D printing equipment in industry today is often operated by those with higher-skilled engineers, but that for the future expansions expected, the equipment and processes will have to be well-run by those with less experience and skills.
That won’t happen if the industry continues on the way it has progressed by continually adding capabilities – and complexity.
It’s possible the introduction of a number of standards could make the world of 3D printing more sensible and expandable, but such a move would be very challenging for all concerned.
Standards-setting institutions would have to identify areas requiring standards, develop them and somehow convince the fast moving companies in the space to adopt them.
3D printing companies would have to adapt their 3D print products towards any new standards, which could be costly and / or time consuming.
Manufacturers using 3D printing would have to adapt their processes, re-train staff and possibly even change out equipment and materials, too.
These seem to be quite a set of challenges to overcome and I suspect standards adoption will be slow as a result. Perhaps when 3D printing technology “settles down” on productive, long-term processes will things align for standards to emerge.