3D Printing Research – How Will 3D Printing Disrupt?

In a new market research report, 47% of the manufacturers surveyed identified the top barrier to implementing a 3DP strategy is the uncertainty of a 3D printed products’ quality, followed by lack of talent to exploit the technology (45%). Intellectual property protection is another potential concern, where CAD-files, 3D scanners and printers could open the door to patent infringement. In addition, manufacturers are wary about how well printed parts or components can perform, and whether they will gain certificate or approval for use by regulated bodies.

The adoption of 3D printing also raises the question of if the supply chain will be shortened to almost one link—eliminating those connecting development, prototyping, production, delivery and warehousing of parts. The survey showed that 30% of manufacturers believe that the greatest disruption to emerge from widespread adoption will be “restructured supply chains.”

A big part of manufacturers’ 3D Printing strategy will be re-training the existing workforce or drawing in new talent with the skills to create digital designs as well as oversee the printing production. A future of “printer farms” with dozens of printers overseen by only a handful of workers also raises the possibility of losing manufacturing jobs to laborsaving technology. Thirty-seven percent of manufacturers attributed their “lack of current expertise in our company to fully exploit the technology” as another top barrier in implementing 3DP in their business.

“We don’t believe 3DP adoption will significantly affect manufacturing jobs overall—it’s more of a shift in the demands for more workers with technical know-how,” said Gardner Carrick, Vice President, The Manufacturing Institute. “The advancement in technology and how it’s changing the image of manufacturing for next generation employees is attracting a new skillset that’s necessary on the shop floor. It’s the perception of manufacturing jobs becoming less blue collar and more white collar.”

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