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Additive Manufacturing – The Next Generation

29 november 2013

Manufacturing the future

Additive manufacturing (AM), known popularly as 3D printing, evokes futuristic imagery of personalized production processes uncoupled from location and limits. This future is now the present—AM has already established itself in the aerospace, turbine, and medtech sectors as a mature and reliable technology, with OEMs and specialized suppliers already offering series production capacities.

With the onset of networked factories, often dubbed Industry 4.0, even more sectors will come to rely on additive manufacturing. Owing to the fast availability of prototypes, lower manufacturing complexity, and advancing digital technologies, we anticipate mechanical engineering will eventually become similar to software design. Only by rethinking the engineering process will firms fully realize the disruptive potential of AM as a new production technology.

Additive manufacturing will also greatly influence changes in materials and machinery as industry players optimize for next-generation production applications. For example, modular machine concepts ready for further automation have already become the industry standard. AM will also lead to new specialized services, such as the repair of complex and high-value components, and advanced product designs will likely become a key factor for success in AM production. All these developments will present new opportunities for businesses and investors alike.

After a burst of enthusiasm in 2013, the stock market has calmed down and the valuations of AM companies have now reached more realistic levels. Though the hype may have ebbed, significant innovations are set to spur considerable expansion in additive manufacturing in the coming years. We expect annual growth rates of up to 30%, as specialized software, new materials, multi-laser applications, and new machine and factory concepts boost the 3D-printing market. Our exclusive study looks at what to expect over the next 15 years from this potentially groundbreaking technology.