Automation is advancing 3D printing applications beyond conventional manufacturing to encompass delivery of products and assets where and when they are needed. For example, specialized robotics are enabling innovative structure construction such as buildings, bridges, and other physical infrastructure.
In the healthcare arena, 3D printed prosthetics is facilitating significantly faster design and delivery for amputee solutions as well as prototyping and try-before-you-buy for patients. 3D custom implants provide efficient and substantially more expeditious delivery of bone replacement material for cancer patients.
In the enterprise and industrial arena, the fabrication, integration, and control of virtually any product is increasingly becoming digitized. This trend is accelerating as evidenced by recent surveys indicating that 3D Printing and other forms of additive manufacturing will have a positive impact, increase creativity and dramatically improve time to market, especially for certain goods and services.
3D printing communities of interest (such as those entities that use 3D printers and related tools including the use of more plugins or online apps) will move beyond mere integrated 3D printing networks to become a larger scale ecosystem. This is anticipated to be a fully integrated 3D ecosystem including 3D design, modelling and simulations, prototyping, and fabrication.
Bringing It Together
Once we can actually design these elements to interface with each other and their corresponding technologies, and build true manufacturing solutions with the resulting systems, we can integrate everything that the industry has learned over the past 25 years and start applying it:
- Openness: Accessibility is hugely important for enabling innovation. If the barrier to an application or new material is the development of a full machine, it won’t be overcome.
- Modularity: This approach is essential both for engaging applications and for leveraging a broader suite of materials.
- Connectivity: Network connectivity will allow for data analytics and deeper integration with software to support for far more sophisticated control.
- Direction: As we’ve seen with the mythical consumer 3D printing market, the industry won’t advance if it pursues the wrong problems. We must apply this power technology where it makes the biggest impact.
The core technologies are not holding back the industry, it’s the system in which they reside that is.