How 3-D Printing Is Going To Transform Industrial Manufacturing

Edited by Ingo Becker

How is 3-D printing poised to transform manufacturing and how do recent advances move 3-D printing from prototyping to full-scale design and production? The following overview shows the basic principles of the technology and gives advice on the industrial use. 

About Additive Manufacturing, i.e. 3-D Printing

Three-dimensional (3-D) printing (also called additive manufacturing) technologies allow people to produce physical objects based on digital models by adding or “printing” successive layers of materials. This technology has the potential to turn any business into a prototype workshop or factory. And as the quality of 3-D printing rises and the price of the technology falls, additive manufacturing is mving to the manufacturing floor, benefitting an increased number of industries.

additive manufacturing 3-D printing

– Source / Infographic: Siemens

Technology Beyond Prototyping

The growing role of 3-D printing in manufacturing is making an impact on the full value chain from design to production. Besides offering the ability to create prototypes more quickly and affordably, 3-D printing may achieve widespread adoption by giving companies the capability to better serve customers through:

  • Low-volume, on-demand manufacturing
  • Individually customized products
  • Restructured supply chains that dramatically reduce maintenance, repair, and operations costs
  • A single, digital design thread that drives all processes from design to production, incorporating analysis, feedback, and testing
  • The ability to create complex designs at the same cost as simple ones

3-D printing world

– Source / Infographic: Raconteur via WiWo Blog / Kroker’s Look at IT

Benefits Of Industrial 3-D Printing

  1. Fast, inexpensive prototyping
  2. Enhanced product design and manipulation
  3. Streamlined machining, tooling, and fabrication
  4. Simplified assembly of multiple parts
  5. Ability to offer inexpensive, custom-made, one-off products

– Example for improvement of design of a circuit box for space applications through 3-D printing:

3-D Printing Design Optimization Infographic Stratasys Dassault

– Source / Infographic: Business Wire via

Potential Applications for 3-D Printing

1. Manufacturing

From consumer goods to heavy equipment, 3-D printing will be used in design, prototyping, and full-scale manufacturing of parts and finished products.

2. Personalized Medicine

3-D printed medical devices, such as hearing aids, will give patients access to custom medical devices and implants.

3. Manufacturing as a service

3-D printing companies rent or lease fleets of printers to businesses that prefer not to make up-front investments in technology that is rapidly changing.

4. Design marketplaces

More affordable 3-D printers and services enable businesses (and consumers) to create customize, buy, and sell individualized designs.

Potential Challenges In Using Enterprise 3-D Printing

  • Skills gap in rapidly evolving 3-D printing technologies
  • Lack of industry standards to enable simpler, more logical 3-D printing processes
  • Difficulty printing with multiple materials
  • Lack of consistency among the same printed products
  • Lengthy, costly changeovers and setups between productions
  • Limited and expensive raw materials

Learn more about new technologies of digitization, for digital transformation and Industry 4.0 – at IT2Industry as specialist subject area of automatica 2018, the leading exhibition for smart automation and robotics, from June 19th to 22th, at Messe München.


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