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2016 Trends – 3D Printing – Nikhil Tomy May 7, 2016

Posted by nikhil.j.tomy in 2016 Trends.
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  1. Definition of Trend/Technology 

3D Printing can be defined as the development of a 3-dimensional object based on a digital file that is configured by the user. The process used to generate the object is known as additive processing where the object is broken into several successive horizontal layers. Consequently, when printed, each successive layer is laid until the object is fully created [1]. From a historical perspective, 3D Printing has existed since the 1970s. However, the technology was considered to be large and expensive, which could only be afforded by commercial businesses. It was not until 2007, when the RepRap project by Dr. Adrian Bowyer from the University of Bath in the United Kingdom came to fruition, which caused the technology to gain increased momentum. The project is an open source rapid prototyping system to develop small parts in a low cost and effective manner. [2] To put things into perspective, from an economic stand point, the cost of a 3D printer once upon a time could range from 100,000 to 1 million dollars [3]. However, today, after the emergence of the RepRap project, the home version of a 3D printer can be purchased as low as 500 dollars.

  1. Scope

 As mentioned earlier, 3D printing has existed for a long period but recent advancements in the technology has allowed it to be cost-effective, opening more opportunities for small businesses and personal use. For businesses that are growing, the latest form of 3D printing allows prototyping at lower costs. In addition, flexibility exists where companies like Shapeways can perform 3D Printing based on the customer’s designs at reasonable rate based on the size and material of the desired object [4]. The impact of 3D printing can be exemplified through the work of researchers have been able to use 3D Printing to be able to print out cells to form kidneys, liver and the heart. However, the complexity has been to form the vascular networks. Additional studies are being done where fibers are likely to be printed through the model. Once printed, endothelial cells are to be coated over the fibers. Once hardened, the goal is to remove the printed fibers, leaving a hollow vascular fiber. Finally, the objective is “to print organ cells around these networks to keep the tissue alive” [5]. The project clearly validates the immense power and potential of 3D Printing.

  1. Growth

As of 2016, the 3D printing industry is currently worth 7.3 billion and the industry will reach nearly 21 billion. Consumer electronics and automotive industry capture 40% of the growth while the medical device industry is responsible for 15% of the growth. An interesting statistic that validates the strength of 3D printing is the fact that it only represents 0.04% of global manufacturing. If the 3D printing industry can capture 5% of global manufacturing, the industry would be worth $640 billion [6]. In addition, the expected amount to be spent on 3D Printing is likely to rise from 11 billion to 26.7 billion dollars by 2019 [7]. The prices of the systems has been the main proponent for the growth of the industry, where it has allowed hobbyists to enter the market. However, a recent study by Deloitte states that 3D printing is “likely to remain a specialized application and is not likely to replace traditional production” [8]. Although the benefits of 3D Printing makes the trend fascinating to monitor, the safety risks that 3D Printing poses have to be equally accounted for. For instance, developing 3D objects based on stolen blueprints are considered to be one of the most serious risks of the technology [9]. Not to mention, 3D printed weapons in the hands of the wrong people.

  1. Final Statement

The 3D Printing trend is one that will not diminish over next decade, rather it is likely to continue growing especially in the third world countries. The potential of the technology is very powerful and it leads for further innovation. However, through its potential, there is a sufficient amount of risk that it poses to the general safety of the public, which must not be ignored. In regard to recommendations for the future of the trend, I believe that further investments into the software used to generate the configuration files for the objects will require further attention, especially to make it more user friendly. This will further boost the growth of the industry.

  1. Sources

[1] http://3dprinting.com/what-is-3d-printing/

[2] http://3dprintingindustry.com/3d-printing-basics-free-beginners-guide/history/

[3] http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/09/3d-printing

[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/capitalonespark/2013/05/06/3d-printing-could-be-a-boon-for-small-business/#57be53b716fc

[5] https://3dprint.com/30482/3d-printing-2014/

[6] https://news.slashdot.org/story/16/05/06/2147257/3d-printing-industry-to-triple-in-four-years-to-21-billion

[7] https://3dprint.com/116562/3d-printing-26-billion-by-2019/

[8] http://3dprintingindustry.com/2012/10/18/current-state-and-future-predictions-for-the-growth-of-the-3d-printing-industry/

[9] http://www.forbes.com/sites/zurich/2016/05/06/when-3d-printing-gets-into-the-wrong-hands/#38ed1e6524a6

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