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The State of 3D Printing, 2018

2018-10-30 16:07
Prototyping (55%), production (43%) and Proof of Concept models (41%) are the three most popular 3D printing applications in 2018 with R&D departments being the most active adopters. Prototyping is experiencing rapid growth in 2018, as evidenced by the 21% increase in adoption between 2017 and this year. Adoption of 3D Printing in production environments is soaring, increasing 21% between 2017 and 2018. Proof of Concept has increased 18% in one year. The following graphic compares adoption rate of 3D printing applications and 3d printing users by department.

Accelerating product development is the highest priority companies are relying on 3D printing for, jumping from 29% in 2017 to 39% in 2018. Offering customized products and services is also increasing as manufacturers rely on 3D printing to streamline and grow their mass customization and build-to-order product strategies. Manufacturers are also finding 3D printing can contribute to increasing production flexibility, further increasing sales and driving revenue growth. Manufacturers also see accelerating product development as their area in need of the greatest improvement, with 37% citing this area as the highest priority in 2018, up from 25% in 2017.

Power users bring a greater level of intensity and focus on getting results from 3D printing strategies with 98% seeing competitive advantages and over half (55%) saying accelerating product development is their highest priority. Comparing power users with all users provides insights into the level of intensity the former group brings to getting the most value from their 3d printing strategies. Across the top nine priorities, Power Users dominate their prioritization and cited areas for improvement of 3D printing in their companies.

Companies who consider themselves to be a 3D printing-first companies jumped from 15% to 22% this year, indicating a greater focus on integration to attain more benefits. The greater the level of integration 3D printing processes, systems and technologies have in any manufacturing company, the greater the potential to achieve significant benefits. Support for complex product geometrics, lead-time reduction, cost reduction and the flexibility of supporting small batches are all catalysts that enable manufacturers to grow. The more customized and build-to-order a given product line, the more valuable 3D printing becomes in meeting customer timeframes and achieving the benefits mentioned in the graphic below.

36% of companies are using metal materials for 3D printing this year, up from 28% in 2017 signaling greater adoption for production operations. 46% are using 3D printing devices based on Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), an increase of 12% from last year. Polishing (48%), painting (27%) and machining (23%) are the top three finishes used on 3D printed objects. The study found that nearly all companies using 3D printing today are relying on polishing and painting as part of their development process.

Manufacturers are relying on 3D printing to differentiate their businesses on the dimensions of quality, speed, and customization. Most important is product or service quality (30%), followed by innovation speed (29%), and product/service choice and customization (21%). Respondents are relying on 3D printing to contribute to each of these goals, especially in the areas of accelerating product development and reducing time-to-market.

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