3D Printing White Paper – 5 Disruptive Trends Caused by 3D Printing Technology

Here are predictions from McKinsey about 3D Printing Trends.

First among McKinsey’s predictions is that 3D printing will bring about a new paradigm in product development cycles. While 3D printers have been used for prototyping for years, the declining price of systems is allowing more businesses to adopt the technology. With the ability to model and print an object in a matter of hours, greater emphasis on client feedback and customer centered design are also reshaping product design cycles.

While still maturing, McKinsey also sees that 3D printing is rapidly growing to meet the needs for short-run, high quality end-use parts. “As of 2011, only about 25 percent of the additive-manufacturing market involved the direct manufacture of end products,” read the report. “With a 60 percent annual growth rate, however, that is the industry’s fastest-growing segment. As costs continue to fall and the capabilities of 3-D printers increase, the range of parts that can be economically manufactured using additive techniques will broaden dramatically.” We can now print food, chocolate, glass, wood, carbon, steel, metals, plastics, cheese, stem cells and rubber, just to name a few. As 3D printed end-use products begin to be developed, McKinsey also sees consumers expecting more customization in the products they consume. While this means more time has to be spent tailoring products to the customers’ need, it also means greater value can be built into a product which, in turn, could be used to generate customer loyalty and greater profit.

Although many of McKinsey’s predictions seem to speak of the potential gains that can be made by using AM, there’s a dark side to the technology as well. Like all manufacturing methods, a deep knowledge of the technology is required if you really want to leverage it to full effect. That means businesses interested in adopting the technology should be willing to commit to learning about plastics properties, 3D printing methods and the advantages or disadvantages of various printing methods. Finally, the report concludes that 3D printing is already reducing the cost of entry into a number of markets to the point that new niche design businesses are being founded at an incredible rate. “New businesses are already popping up to offer highly customized or collaboratively designed products. Others act as platforms for the manufacture and distribution of products designed and sold online by their customers. These businesses are gaining insights into consumer tastes and building relationships that established companies could struggle to match.”

While many of McKinsey’s predictions are already shaking up the manufacturing status quo, in the next decade I imagine additive manufacturing will have even more disruptive implications. Not least of which comes from the early adoption of the technology by experts in nanotechnology and bio-medicine manufacturing.

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