Shapeways 2021 predictions see an ever more relevant role of advanced AM-specific software to increase production scale, along with more distributed manufacturing. To date, the leading AM service provider, for both B2B and B2C customers, has manufactured more than 12 million 3D printed parts on over 10 technologies using 75 different materials. Gathering insights from industry insiders, strategic partners, and high-profile business and consumer customers the company has identified a number of possible trends for 3D printing in 2021.
Software becomes Imperative
3D printing software enables companies to scale as their business needs warrant. “Scaling doesn’t mean just doing more, it means doing 3D printing efficiently and consistently”, stated Shapeways CEO Greg Kress. “Software makes it easier to create 3D printed products and guide the customers through all aspects of the process. 3D printing at scale is very involved in nesting, tray planning, file fixing, build planning and more. Software provides the insight required to get prints manufactured correctly and therefore makes it easier to produce quality products.
3D printing leads the future
Additive manufacturing has already disrupted the eyewear, dental, and hearing aid markets. It will continue to do so as more companies constantly innovate product ideas and leverage 3D printing to make those ideas a reality. The core industries of aerospace, automotive, and healthcare will continue to grow however other industries will present opportunities. 3D printing is about the final use of a product and doesn’t always make sense for every product, however, for some, it’s the perfect tool. Applications that have a high mix and required low volumes can take advantage of the benefits of additive manufacturing.
COVID-19 crisis continues
In 2020, COVID-19 shook the world and put additive manufacturing in the mainstream spotlight with PPE and healthcare production. Unfortunately, for the near-term, COVID-19 will still be a part of business planning and operations in 2021. Additive manufacturing is built for situations such as these that require businesses to adapt and adjust to market conditions.
Supply chain agility ramps up
Companies will continue to rethink redundancy, who their suppliers are, and to look to for high mix – low volume on-demand manufacturing. 3D printing will play a large part in the supply chain conversations as they have in 2020. In addition, more distributed manufacturing will be a consideration as end products are produced closer to the end-user.
Accelerating investments in 3D printing
Materials, hardware, and software for additive manufacturing will attract more investors. Venture Capital firms and larger companies with investment divisions will find 3D printing companies to invest within for strategic positioning or to enable new revenue streams. In addition, the consolidation that we have seen across the market in 2020 will continue well into 2021.