In some years, it will be hard for us to find any industry not influenced by 3D printing, especially mass manufacturing.3D printing is used to define a range of manufacturing techniques, which produce component parts layer-by -layer through the additional use of materials. There are different types of 3D printing processes ad all of them are controlled using 3-dimensional data. Some of these processes use molten plastic which is deposited accurately on a build platform while some other use lasers to melt layers of powdered material, with other processes using ink-jet printing heads to deposit material into the shape of the desired component part. The falling cost of 3D printers has resulted in 3D printing being feasible even for households but the real challenge for 3D printing is Mass Production. With the adoption of large-scale printers and rapidly evolving technology, this challenge won’t be there for long. 3D printers have the ability to disrupt the current manufacturing facilities and practices and this will bring a new set of things to be taken care. On an industrial level, designers will only need a CAD software package to be able to build precise and intricate designs and present them on the same day which in comparison with earlier methods took days or weeks even after the design was finalised. The level of simplicity and cost effectiveness that can be achieved in 3D printing is thus far more than the one-time cost involved in buying big 3D printers.
According to CCS Insights, approximately 1,58,000 3D printers were sold globally in 2014 and this figure is expected to skyrocket to 8,45,000 by 2018. Such high growth could increase the revenue to $4.8 billion from $1.6 billion and approximately 50% of this global revenue will be coming from North America. 3D printing cuts across major industries such as Food, Retail, Healthcare, Ancillary industries, Replacement parts, etc.
It is also expected that 3D printing will reduce lead time drastically and may result in On-demand Production. The sort of benefit 3D printing is expected to give is unique in the sense that it will save a lot on things such as storage costs, cost of prototypes, cost of production. The industries that would be most affected other than mass production would be Healthcare and Ancillary Industries. 3D Printing has already affected the Healthcare industry in making prosthetics devices & organs, surgical models and even living tissue (commonly known as Bio printing). Similarly, in ancillary industry, 3D printing will make it possible to manufacture small objects at a very low cost and in time efficient manner, bringing customised goods into play with essentially the same resources required.
Along with all these pros, this technology also has some drawbacks which may need some workarounds. Isabel Napper, partner at law firm Mills & Reeve and head of the firm’s technology division, believes there could be increasing issues around copyright as 3D printing takes off – similar to the problems experienced in the music industry with the beginning of digital content through sites such as Napster. Copyright issues are going to occur as people upload design files that potentially infringe patents and copyright material. Another issue may be the requirement of various raw materials which printers might not be able to process and manufacture products. Such issues will need to be ironed out as the future of 3D printing looks bright and its increasing potential will eventually cast a shadow on some negative aspects as the world might want to overlook them.
Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management