Study: 3D printing is changing the way developers work

April 12, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The technology of additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) has reached series maturity – in particular in the areas of medical products, aerospace and turbines. The high innovation potential of 3D printing allows growth expectations in excess of 30% p.a to appear realistic, says a study from consulting company Roland Berger.

The study is focused on innovation and trends in the area of software and engineering as well as plant technology, materials, post processing and maintenance, taking into account the impact of these factors to cost and market growth. Innovation speed will remain at high level, the authors predict. In particular the aspect of design software for complex 3D parts is increasingly taking center stage of the development. Currently the market for such software is undergoing a consolidation process, driven by the large CAD players. In the medium to long term, the 3D printing technology will also lead to changes in the way industrial development is working. “This holds particularly true to the machine building industry,” said Roland Berger Partner Bernd Langefeld and expert for additive manufacturing. “Through 3D printing, the design process of mechanical parts will increasingly become similar to software development”, Langefeld said.

 

Also the 3D printing technology itself is exhibiting significant progress. For example it now is possible to control melting through laser in a very defined way. This enables users to create metals with specific mechanical and electromagnetic properties that otherwise could not be produced at the desired thickness. “Through additive manufacturing, new materials and material compositions can be created, opening up innovation potential for many industries”, comments Langefeld. “In connection with industry 4.0 and digitization of production processes, 3D printing makes entirely new manufacturing concepts possible. Studies from plant manufacturers show that are rapidly approaching fully automated 3D factories”.

 

Since its inception some twelve years ago, the market for additive manufacturing has seen a strong yearly growth of 20 percent at average. This pace is going to continue and perhaps even to accelerate, the study figures. Nevertheless, the market will become more international. Whereas until 2014, German manufacturers have supplied almost 70 percent of all additive manufacturing systems sold worldwide, new innovative contenders are entering the market; the study authors expect that this will