Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, a subsidiary of 3D-printing technology leader Stratasys (Eden Prairie, MN), has just published a report on the impact of 3D printing on manufacturing. The 27-page document is based on a survey of 700 designers, engineers and executives who work for companies committed to advanced manufacturing (AM) technology, 40% of whom are employed by companies with more than $50 million in revenue. As such, it is the only business report dedicated to 3D printing that is focused on insights from professional users, according to Stratasys. It offers a number of interesting observations:
By a large margin, respondents ranked complex design capabilities (79%) and reduced lead time for parts (76%) as the most significant benefits of AM.
In terms of current AM challenges, a majority cited equipment costs (63%) and limited materials (54%), issues that have often come up in our coverage of the technology in PlasticsToday. Manufacturing costs (38%) and post-processing requirements (39%) were also mentioned. As the report notes, "two of the top four challenges are financial-based, indicating that cost remains a barrier to implementation." Interestingly, the availability of a range of materials was also identified as one of the issues that would have the greatest future impact on the AM market. Materials came in third (10%) in that category, trailing mechanical properties (16%) and equipment cost (20%).
Respondents strongly believe that more end-use parts will be designed specifically for AM in the future. The aerospace and automotive sectors, which were early adopters of the technology, will expand end-use production the most, according to the survey. It is also worth noting that respondents anticipate substantial growth in AM applications by 2018 in the manufacturing tools, tooling and patterns, and trial/bridge production segments (see chart below).