2016 looks to be a breakout year for the industry as senior executives’ eyes are on the technology’s potential. The industrial market for 3D printing real end-use parts looks poised to begin its long growth run, with far reaching implications. 2016 will likely usher in 3D printing’s first “killer apps,” impacting both product design and supply chains. No matter what, 2016 will be a year when leaders across industries will be compelled to pay close attention to the emerging opportunities and disruptions that 3D printing is creating.
Here are eight 3D printing trends to watch in 2016.
1. Consumer Market Drop
It appears they may be late to the party. 2015 marked the end of the 3D printing consumer market hype cycle with Stratasys (the acquirer of MakerBot) taking massive write-offs and 3D Systems shutting down its entire consumer unit in December. With prospects dimming for the short-term consumer market, attention will quickly turn toward 3D printing’s area of greatest promise — industrial applications.
2. Pushing The Limits Of Technology
While GE and Ford have touted their rapid progress with 3D printing, many others are achieving some incredible accomplishments. Look for exciting announcements about exotic new 3D printing materials such as glass and graphene and 3D printed objects that shatter the previous limitations on shape and size. These “big area” 3D printing machines hold the promise of manufacturing an entire airplane wing structure or blades for massive wind turbines in a single print.
3. Outsourced 3D Printing Gains Share
Most internal design shops have access to an in-house “pro-sumer” 3D printer. But despite advances in the technology, these printers remain difficult to use, often result in print errors, and are subject to traffic jams when everyone wants to print something at the same time. As the speed and sophistication of external providers has increased dramatically, with some now guaranteeing 24-hour production/delivery, many engineers and designers are ditching their internal printers in favor of a external service providers. Many firms feel they don;t have to buy a machine at all.