3D Printing: The Future Trends & Use Cases

Ujjal Mitra, Proprietor, iConsult iConsult is a Providing Engineering Management & Advisory firm enabling clients to obtain the optimal solution by improving cost, quality and time constraints by offering a suite of solutions that include Value Engineering, Peer Review, Design Management, Project Management, Design And Bid Strategy Formation, Project Feasibility Management, and many more.

Sometime in the near future, a typical Buyer Seller meet would be along these kinds of queries:

Is that Even a Possibility?
With the ability to transcend the limitations of today’s manufacturing technologies by repeatedly adding a new dimension, 3D Printing, also known as, Additive Manufacturing is the disruptive technology that has the power to transform the way many things are being produced today. 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique that creates objects by printing successive layers of material using a digital model. The word printing often confuses people who are perhaps not too familiar with this process. However, if one looks deeper, there are similarities, but let's not confuse them anymore and help them understand why this new technique of manufacturing is meant for unique rather than mass products

Why Unique and not Mass Products?
The prevalent manufacturing technologies, when they emerged during the last Industrial Revolution, had a very different world of consumers, those who were happy to consume whatever, wherever, whenever and however the industries were producing. But now, the world is changing, and so are we the consumers, and our trends that are emerging today, demands for 'Products made for me' rather than 'Products made for any body/every body’. The current
manufacturing processes, even though they have been improved over time are often, focused on 'commercialization', which means that they are produced for profits for the parent organizations and thus, are highly optimized for quantity. Consumers felt that it is high time that they, who are paying for it, should be of prime importance and thus products should be made for them, as per their choice, hence unique, which is 'Me' centric productions. This brings disruption to the current manufacturing processes & ideologies and changes the perspective of 'production' and gave birth to the idea of highly customizable unique production technology of Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing, the ability to produce many things today(and may be almost anything in times to come) as per demand, wherever, whenever and with whatever.

Consumers felt that it is high time that they, who are paying for it, should be of prime importance and thus products should be made for them, as per their choice

The Transformation
In-Line with the above trends, the factories of the future are going to shrink in size, lesser manpower centric, with diverse range of machines (3D Printers) and raw materials (in a new form), and come closer to their consumers (to lessen the cost burden & risk of transportation). The various techniques of 3D Printing/Additive manufacturing, hybrid manufacturing (mix of additive & subtractive manufacturing, even assembly lines of continuous processes and definitely multi materials) are evolving regularly and will keep growing at a tremendous pace as the enthusiasm gains momentum within and during the next few years.

The Peripheral Growth
as is consistent with every industry, there would be high demand for peripheral services and technologies to support and compliment this disruptive technology of 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing and each of these will be equally significant, be it in content creation (design generation, analysis) 3D Scanning (reverse engineering) research on material science (both organic & inorganic) post production ops (finishing)and human resource development (training, machine language developments, apps) and many more.

So Which One is Right for Me?
Well, this will be an answer best derived by you. There are various kinds of 3D printing machines, materials; peripheral services that are available right now throughout the world and you can manage to identify which one suits your vision, pocket and opportunities. If you are enthusiastic about stepping into this field, give it some time and be prepared to go through a learning curve, have deep pockets to sustain your aspirations till the time you get started and established. If you are expecting miracles and would like to treat this as a 'get rich soon vehicle', then time is not yet right for you to step-in as the market is still in its formative years and may not be suitable to traders.