Materialise has published their thoughts on 3D printing trends in 2024, and they’re quite revealing.
Their key point is that they see the adoption of 3D printing is not only growing, which has been the traditional prediction for many years now, but that the use of the technology is shifting.
This is something that we should have all foreseen: when the industry is small, the growth potential is enormous. Without details it’s easy to envision a technology taking over segments of manufacturing.
However, the truth is always a bit different. What we’re seeing now is that as the technology is adopted, it’s flowing into specific areas that make sense. 3D printing cannot be used for everything, implying that it would make its way into profitable niches. That seems to be what’s happening today as manufacturers continue to integrate the tech into their existing production workflows.
Another prediction from Materialise is the rise of lower-cost equipment. They — and the rest of us — have seen the introduction of mid-range 3D printing equipment that now rivals and sometimes exceeds the quality previously found only on high-end equipment. This has even cascaded down into the desktop segment, where today’s inexpensive machines are often as good as yesterday’s professional gear.
Materialise believes the new lower cost midrange equipment will address the needs of budget buyers, such as internal print farms, and even enable companies to dedicate machines to specific applications that didn’t make sense when costs were higher.
They also see companies no longer asking “why” they should 3D print, but have now shifted towards “how” to 3D print. It seems that the decades of persuasion and explanation have gradually paid off, and now many companies are diving in, but need answers on how to proceed.
Finally, Materialise identifies the challenge facing manufacturers considering 3D printing: cost / benefit. Production is all about making units at the lowest cost possible, and that’s been challenging given the cost of 3D printers, materials, post processing and labor. However, this is now recognized by many in the space and solutions are continually emerging. This should tip the scales towards 3D printing in manufacturing in future years.
These observations and predictions are all valid in my opinion, and are yet another signal that 3D print technology is beginning to reach a plateau of maturity in the market. We still have far to go, but there’s a new vision on the horizon.