The dramatic rise in metal additive manufacturing machine sales does not come at the expense of polymer-based 3D printing. In fact, roughly half of additive manufacturing service providers are running polymer-only systems. And companies such as HP and Carbon, which are focused on high-speed printing of end-use products, are setting a new bar on the production side of things, noted Sand.
Advent of high-speed resin-based systems
In the last 10 years, we have seen the emergence of more functional engineering thermoplastic and metal materials for additive manufacturing, said Sand. Now we’re seeing a new phase in production, driven by the speed of the 3D printers, and some of the price points on materials coming down as the scale becomes more cost effective. That’s true of metals and it’s especially true of plastics, with the advent of high-speed resin systems, according to Sand. “HP, in particular, set the tone a couple of years ago,” said Sand. HP hopes to disrupt the $12 trillion manufacturing sector by accelerating the part production process, using its Multi Jet Fusion technology, ultimately to the point where it can rival injection molding.
That brings us to the supply chain, the foundations of which could be rattled by additive manufacturing, according to Cullen Hilkene, CEO of 3Diligent (El Segundo, CA), a digital manufacturing service provider that offers CNC machining, molding and casting as well as 3D printing. As production is performed “close to the customer, via distributors or even within the home, the supply chain as we know it, will experience fundamental disruption,” said Hilkene.
That’s a lot of potential disruption when you think about it. If you’re part of the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, the sensible thing to do, it seems, is to take a page out of the Scouting handbook and be prepared.