Will 3D Printing Become a Staple in the Metalworking Industry?
3D printing technology is rapidly making its way into several important industries in the US and around the globe. The reason behind this boost in popularity relies upon the versatility of the technology and in its progressive nature.
While many manufacturers have are already enjoying the benefits of additive manufacturing, however, some others are still striving to fully embrace the technology. This especially the case within the metalworking industry, an area where the 3D printing is still confined to prototyping.
What are the reasons preventing additive manufacturing from becoming a staple in metalworking?
A recent research conducted by MIT students explored the main trends in the use of the technology along with the current and future obstacles.
One of the main trends that might influence the adoption rate of additive manufacturing in metalworking is the undergoing workforce transformation. The younger generations approaching the industry seem in fact more open to embracing new technologies, such as 3D printing, and new materials.
The research, conducted by visiting facilities using CNC and additive processes and by interviewing owners, operators and managers, showed unexpected results.
A surprising 29% of large business and 9% of small businesses declared that is considering replacing 100% processes with additive manufacturing.
The reason behind this unexpected response most likely lies in the benefits that AM can bring into the industry.
Manufacturers already adopting the new technology said that they benefit from AM in the following ways:
- Shorter value chain
- Less material waste
- Latitude in designing and making changes quickly
- Savings on the bottom line
Why isn’t then 3D printing already widely adopted by the metalworking industry?
The authors conclude their research by saying that “3D printing is a promising emergent technology. Like most new technologies, 3D printing still needs to evolve before it can be widely adopted by the metalworking industry. While it is already viewed as a viable and useful technology, AM still has barriers to overcome. Currently, the main barriers for most business are the high initial investment required and the limitation of materials available for 3DP. Limited printable size also is a main concern regarding AM adoption, independent of the industry segment and business size.”