100 3D printing experts predict the future of 3D printing in 2030

3D Printing Industry asked 100 additive manufacturing leaders to identify how 3D printing will develop during the next ten years. In our article last week, we took a look at the near term trends in 3D printing to watch for 2020. This new article draws on insights from additive manufacturing experts across the globe to understand where our industry is heading.

Will AM herald the disruption of manufacturing as we know it? While major change is likely to be slow, with this longer time horizon, it may be useful to consider the role of governments in supporting new industries.

Trade-technology tensions persist, as do developments around export controls  – specifically the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security’s proposed rules around Additive Manufacturing Equipment for “Energetic Materials”.

Will a consequence of such controls be a parallel development of regional specific AM markets? 

Also at a state level is the role governmental policy plays in the widespread adoption of technology. While far from analogous, the history of the semiconductor industry provides many insights into the interaction between fundamental research and how technology is adopted. For example, Department of Defense support, Federal funding of pilot production lines and other factors that determine technical change. Furthermore, incumbent production process technology acts as a lock-in mechanism and hurdle that new technology must overcome.

What applications will be unlocked by wider use of AM and how will people’s lives change as a result? The 3D printing experts we surveyed see additive as a vital technology behind improved healthcare, transport and a future where environmental or green concerns are addressed – for example lowering fuel consumption through light-weighting or increasing energy efficiency.

The phrase “circular economy” crops up with increasing regularity during my travels to 3D printing conferences and expos around the world. As a report published this month shows worldwide consumption of resources is now over 100 billion tonnes annually. Will 3D printing enable a reduction in material consumption in the coming decade?

Is a future of on-demand and customized products made to individual specifications on the horizon? According to some of 3D printing leaders, that is the case.

And will the current logo landscape be recognizable, which of today’s 3D printing unicorns will take the IPO path and become public companies, or will larger engineering and manufacturing concerns acquire and absorb them? 

What are the drivers behind the predictions of these 3D printing experts? Applications are set to remain a fundamental force propelling the industry. Of equal, or possibly greater, weight is the palette of materials designers, engineers and end-users of 3D printing can harness. Efforts in materials science that bring a broader range of materials are underway, yet many opportunities remain untapped.

Linked to this are the skills of those working with AM. Design for Additive Manufacturing is emerging a new set skill set, and if our anecdotal experience of hiring at 3D Printing Industry is anything to go by universities are introducing AM to the curriculum with increasing frequency.

Increases in computing power are another enabler. While a decrease in the cost of energy driven by a move to renewable sources and advances in storage will also be of assistance. Linked to the later element, batteries, are deemed a “core technological enabler” for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by the World Economic Forum.

Widespread 3D printing enabled distributed manufacturing, or decentralized production, has not emerged in a manner anticipated by some and the usefulness of frothy jargon, such as Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution is queried. Yet, unbridled techno-optimism, whereby “the future” is a multifarious panacea, and unchecked skepticism are both extreme states, will a rational, cooler,  middle path be plotted through the decade by analysts and commentators? Let’s see.

And finally, but of critical importance, are the people behind the technology. As the additive manufacturing leaders surveyed for this article illustrate, 3D printing is a global industry. For the visions articulated below to be realized in the coming decade, our sector needs to continue to attract the best and brightest. The trifecta of additive manufacturing – machines, materials, software – can be advanced by those with a diverse skill-set, therefore striving for an inclusive industry will benefit all.

Read on for insights from CEOs, CTOs, and other additive manufacturing experts.

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Marie Langer, CEO, EOS GmbH

By the end of the 2020s, we expect to see a substantial portion of AM solutions for concrete applications in digital manufacturing, driven – among others – by new materials and scaled-up production capacities through end to end solutions.

Over time, our digital AM solution portfolio will have further disrupted conventional manufacturing.  

Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant & President, Wohlers Associates, Inc.

Applications will play a central role in driving most growth in the industry. These applications will be supported by startups and organizations of all sizes. Most startups will be acquired or will simply disappear. Successful companies will build on what’s now in place in several industries, including healthcare, aerospace, and defense. Organizations in power/energy will help the developed industrial sectors advance AM to levels not seen in the past. 

Custom product manufacturing for everyday consumers and companies will become commonplace. Some companies will make substantial progress in transitioning from physical to digital inventories and manufacturing on-demand. This will become especially true for spare part manufacturing. Many more industry-wide standards from ASTM, ISO, and other organizations will advance AM and make it more economically viable. Product volumes will support a substantial decline in material pricing. This, coupled with dramatically faster AM machines and post-process automation, will change the types and volumes of products that will be produced by AM.

Arno Held, Chief Venture Officer, AM Ventures

By the end of this decade, Additive Manufacturing will not only have matured into a technology that integrates into existing manufacturing workflows. We will also witness the technology to revolutionize the way we develop, create and source goods. More computing power, lower cost per energy and the availability of targeted technical education will lead to a major increase in machine productivity, broader material ranges, improved recyclability, as well as much higher levels of quality. I am convinced that by 2030, products designed and manufactured based on additive principles will be the reason why injuries heal faster and at a lower cost, why cars can drive further, batteries last longer and planes fly with much fewer emissions and I cannot wait to witness all this myself.

Naresh Shanker, Chief Technology Officer, Xerox

Over the next decade, 3D printing will be fully integrated with traditional manufacturing — additive manufacturing will be a mainstream element of most assembly lines. Faster, more robust 3D printing that creates consistent, high-quality output will power large-scale production on par with traditional techniques like casting and injection molding. 

But let’s think bigger here. It’s about more than just manufacturing: 3D printing is going to be at the core of our on-demand, instant-on, highly-customized economy, also changing the way we approach design, inventory, logistics and fulfillment, delivering powerful economic and environmental benefits alike.

Vyomesh Joshi, President & CEO, 3D Systems

I’m excited about what’s currently possible because of 3D printing and am energized about what will be possible by the end of the decade. As we exit 2029, the market will be mature through the adoption of AM technology – moving from the early majority to late majority. The “design-to-production” capability facilitated by AM will become pervasive in all segments. 3D printing as an enabling technology is being taught in schools today, but it is occurring in pockets. By the end of the decade, every student from elementary school through post-graduate institutions will have access to these transformational technologies. The value proposition of AM – custom parts, complex parts, and accelerated product development cycles – will become a way-of-life versus a possibility through a ‘new’ technology. By the end of the decade, AM will transform supply chains with custom products being available made-to-order through on-demand and local printing.

Throughout the coming decade, materials science will be a driving force in the growth of applications addressed by additive manufacturing. I am confident that the pace of materials innovation will accelerate, and as we leave the 2020’s, we’ll see a variety of new materials including: tough materials, high-temperature materials, biocompatible materials, high-performance aerospace materials, bioinks, ceramics, cermets, and composites. As the market matures, manufacturers will continue to push OEMs for new materials to address new applications never before thought possible.

What I am most excited about over this next decade is the potential for AM technologies to redefine patient-specific healthcare through bioprinting. We will not only be able to impact patients’ quality of life – saving lives with bioprinting will become a reality. Breakthrough material speed, size and resolution will open new opportunities for regenerative medicine including applications in tissue regeneration and organ creation.

Bart Van der Schueren, CTO, Materialise

For the next decade, we’ll find that 3D printing becomes an integral part of our standard manufacturing process – to a point where it becomes equally accepted as CNC machining, metal casting or even injection molding. The choice between 3D printing and conventional production will apply to more steps in the production process – where ramp-up products will be printed while product series will be produced conventionally and after-market products will again be printed. This will be driven by the significant performance increase of machines, automated workflows and product designs that are natively available for 3D printing. At the same time, the quality of the prints will increase dramatically and become repeatable across multiple machines. The promise of multi-material printing and the integration of electronics will enable the development of entirely new categories of products with high added value, including advanced and mass-customized wearables.

Jeng-Ywan Jeng, Professor Distinguished Professor of NTUST, Director of NTUST High Speed 3D Printing Research Center

At first, AM was only used for building prototype models. There are limits that make AM still just a support in manufacturing. Although the quality and precision compared to subtractive manufacturing can be much higher, the cost and waiting time are also high. For these reasons, AM was not able to have a large use in most of the industry. With many years of development, AM will become more and more important and mature than subtractive manufacturing in the manufacturing industry in a decade, not just being a supportive method for the manufacturing industry like it used to be.        

Karen Linder, CEO, Tethon 3D

I am hopeful that the coming decade will be the next “Roaring ‘20s”, with a surging economy in an era of collaboration and support to collectively advance additive manufacturing, resulting in a renaissance that will redefine global manufacturing.

Trent Allen, President, Tethon 3D

Due to advanced materials & proprietary applications designed over the next decade, we’ll see much more of a focus on cybersecurity. WiFi-enabled 3D printers used in industry could become a thing of the past. My hopes for the next decade would be as an industry we spend less time on inconsequential 3D printing applications and continue to push the boundaries in fields like energy, space, and medical. 

Jos Burger, CEO, Ultimaker

By the end of the 2020s decade, it is likely that more companies embraced a digital warehouse. Companies understood that 3D printing has not only the potential to unlock new applications but also unlocks completely new business opportunities. Traditional part sourcing required long lead times and expensive delivery costs waiting for orders to be fulfilled. With 3D printing, companies can produce customized parts on-demand, addressing needs immediately, and oftentimes tailor-made to the customers’ request. 

Nora Toure, Founder, Women in 3D Printing

I sincerely hope additive manufacturing, especially because it enables on-demand and localized production, will have a more significant role to play in resolving the sustainability challenges we’re facing. 

I predict there will be a countless number of companies that have adopted additive manufacturing into their supply chain commercially with a vast majority of products to be produced on-demand and locally (not necessarily through additive manufacturing, but more as a combination of manufacturing tools, including additive manufacturing). That means we will have figured out a way to quickly and efficiently certify parts made on-demand. 

I hope that production will be fully automated with robotics coming to play, reducing the cost of production. I suspect that once an item will be finished, a drone will deliver it to its final destination. I hope a decade will be enough to answer all the legal questions that come with what I just wrote! 

Zach Simkin, President, Senvol and Chairman, SME Additive Manufacturing Advisory Board

By the end of the decade, I would hope that many of the common challenges that we face with additive manufacturing will have reasonably been solved. For example, I hope that we’ll have a sizable workforce that has been trained on design for additive manufacturing; I hope that machine repeatability and build-to-build variation issues will have been resolved; and I hope that there will be well-defined, easy-to-implement paths for qualification and certification of additively manufactured components.

And it’s not just hope. Although everything that I mentioned above is a moving target to a certain extent, I do expect and predict that all of the issues I mentioned will have made substantial improvements compared to the status quo today.

Charles Han, CEO, INTAMSYS

Within the next 10 years, the entire 3D printing industry, from hardware and software to materials, would be fully ready for production. 3D printing technology will become a very popular manufacturing process, and a large number of smart 3D printing factories will emerge. The infrastructure changes will drive many industries choosing 3D printing as their primary manufacturing process and the development of technology will gradually change people’s mindset simultaneously. Compared with the traditional manufacturing process, production efficiency will be improved and the final product cost will be drastically decreased thanks to additive manufacturing technology.

Noritaka Yasuda, CEO, JAMPT Corporation

We believe a lot more applications with EBM technology will be introduced within the next decade as more EBM machine options will be widely available to the market. 

Key advantages of EBM such as no residual stress and no distortion of build parts have the potential to get AM technology adopted for high-end parts as well. Consequently, having perfect powder quality (porosity, satellite, sphericity, etc) will be a critical issue. Metal powder produced by PREP methodology would be great suite for such case. Therefore, JAMPT has already started working on PREP powder and found it can achieve high fatigue strength even without HIP. 

We will keep evaluating this combination (EBM×PREP), and developing more applications.

Josef Průša, CEO & Founder, Prusa Research

Many more industrial technologies will trickle down to the desktop territory with prices for mere mortals. Am I hinting at something? Maybe.

I also expect that there will be a huge boom of new materials. I think we will get to a material, which prints as nicely as PLA, while being as durable as ASA and fully biodegradable at the same time.

Jack Chen,  CEO, Creality3D

By the end of the 2020s, we will see and believe that more people will be aware of additive manufacturing technology, more companies have seen its market prospects and are expected to invest in 3D printing industry. 

Undoubtedly newly released technology and innovation will push 3DP to faster development, New challenge is coming, we are ready to meet a new 3D printing world!

Janne Pihlajamaki, CEO, miniFactory

During the next decade, we believe that the growth of the AM industry will increase even more.  This will happen when the bottleneck of the designing phase will be tackled. Therefore, designers need the right tools and training to have knowledge about the possibilities of 3D printing. We believe that by the end of the 2020s, AM will have its own quality control standards which will settle 3D printing as one of the basic manufacturing methods.

Edgar Hepp, CEO, Exaddon

Additive micro manufacturing is still in its infancy, and thus will continue to be a very interesting technology for scientists and researchers who are interested in going beyond existing manufacturing possibilities.  

The industrial applications are in the early stages of development, and these will develop toward high-value applications in disciplines such as open defect repair and circuit leveling in the field of semiconductors, or the manufacture of micro antennas for 6G communication. 

There is no doubt for me that the miniaturization will accelerate even more, and µAM will be one of the key technologies to micro manufacture metal parts. 

Martin Schöppl, Managing Director, Genera

Some AM technologies might disappear from the market, also there will be a consolidation as too many players are around in that field. Mechanical construction will change its way of thinking and so more and more parts will be designed for 3D printing.

Prices for printers and materials will drop significantly. 

Andreas Hartmann, CEO/CTO, Solukon

Powder-based AM technologies are and will still be among the leading methods of AM production, especially for metals, and here the problem of fine dust in additive production has been somewhat neglected in recent years. We expect this to change both as a result of what customers are demanding, and through the introduction of more stringent regulations in the coming years. The demands of the market will rise and require a greater level of part certification. We are very happy to see that the AM industry increasingly recognizes the value of our highly-automated depowdering solutions to assure safe and efficient production that meets regulatory requirements.

Due to the rapidly growing market of service providers, price pressure will also increase. The winners will therefore be not only suppliers with good quality parts but also those who produce efficiently. In addition to a high degree of automation, this includes advanced powder recovery. We believe that Solukon is ready to address current challenges and we will continue to develop our automated powder recovery systems to address future needs as well.

By the end of the decade AM will resemble a growing and fully-fledged manufacturing method for parts designed for AM. We expect AM to play its part to push many industries to a new level.

Kadine James, Creative Tech Lead, Hobs 3D

I hope that we will see more diversity and inclusion in our industry and through platforms such as Women in 3D Printing a global initiative aimed at promoting, supporting, and inspiring women using Additive Manufacturing technologies covering sectors as diverse as Arts, Architecture, Engineering, Space and Aviation, and including a mix of academics, industrialists and researchers. 

One of our key aims is to facilitate connections and collaborations and to keep a spotlight on UK AM in addition to developing an ongoing pipeline of talent through working with schools to promote STEAM and 3D Printing knowledge transfer and exchange opportunities. 

Finally, we must also ensure that by the end of the 2020s we have found new ways to bring about ecological justice and support the non-human life that inhabits the planet with us. 

Filemon Schöffer, CCO, 3D Hubs

In the long term, I expect automation will allow 3D printing to happen on a ‘hyper-local’ level, where parts are always produced near the end-user. The more processes are automated, the more parts can be manufactured closer to the end-user. ‘Hyper-local’ manufacturing promises even faster lead times of, say, less than 12 hours, and a more sustainable approach to manufacturing by reducing carbon emissions from transport. 

Benny Buller, Founder & CEO, VELO3D

By the end of the 2020’s decade, I think the industry will achieve a few specific milestones, focused on the maturation of adoption in key vertical segments. Ubiquitous use of metal 3D printing for production of mission-critical spare parts in aviation, oil/gas, power generation transforming the service segment of these industries. Metal 3D printing is used to create qualitatively better products in aviation, oil/gas, power generation (disruptively better). Aviation, oil/gas, power generation are flooded and disrupted by innovative startup companies enabled by the dramatic reduction by the barrier of entry through metal 3D printing.

Dr. Kaj Führer, CEO, enter2net

It will be interesting to see how the automotive industry will fulfill the intended role in the implementation of 3D printing in industrial applications. More and more companies are ready to use AM in small series with scalable additive manufacturing concepts. There will be cost reductions in technology and materials through volume scaling so that additive manufacturing will conquer further shares of the manufacturing technology mix. However, especially in the case of metal, the actual driver will remain functional integration. I am curious to see when not only individual components in the automotive environment will be optimized for AM, but when AM-optimized industrial implementation of large assemblies like whole engines or car bodies takes place. The latter can already be seen in the aerospace industry with aircraft engines.

Ric Fulop, CEO & co-founder, Desktop Metal

Prediction: 3D printing will be a long, but steady, boom. Why is the growth in 3D printing so gradual? It is what I call a long boom. Think of electric vehicles – why aren’t they everywhere yet? If you have 500 million vehicles in a fleet, it takes maybe 10 to 15 years to turn that fleet of vehicles globally. So, if you wanted to switch everything to EV, you’d have to have every car being sold EV for 15 years. That’s going to take a long time, and that’s the same analogy that we have in manufacturing. We’ve had a decade of 30 percent growth average in the additive industry or more and we’re getting ready for a second decade of 30 percent growth. How big will AM become? We look at the size of the manufacturing industry being $12 trillion and additive is not even a fraction of that today. I see additive growing from $10 billion to $100 billion in the next 15 years. That is the kind of arc that the additive industry will soon enter and grow for the next 100 years.

Prediction: Additive manufacturing has a decade of growth in front of it. When we started in the industry in 2015, the industry was $5 to $6 billion. Last year, it was $9.8 billion and over the next decade, that’s going to grow to $70 to $100 billion. It’s not overnight, but it’s going to be a constant 20-30% of growth annually. It’s that constant double-digit growth for a decade that’s what gets you to a really big industry. So, that’s the exciting part about this phase that we’re in. As we remove barriers, add more materials and increase applications, we’ll have a decade of growth in front of us.

Hope: More than 10 percent of everyday products will be made, at least in part, with metal 3D printing. When you look around the room at all the metal parts that exist today, there might be zero or very few that are 3D printed. We’re talking about a long boom for 3D printing, so that by the end of the next decade, I believe more than 10 percent of everyday products will be made, at least in part, with metal 3D printing. While that may seem like a small percentage – it’s still a huge number because we’re talking about hundreds of millions of parts being made with metal 3D printing.

Tessa Blokland, co-founder, LEO Lane

I’ll start with the hopes: by the end of the decade, I hope the AM industry will have put together flexible yet robust and repeatable workflows that are seamless and end to end including a parallel lane of security and consistency throughout. If the ecosystem plays its cards right, customers will be able to build their own workflow and application like building a fort or a path from LEGO bricks. The bricks fit together in various configurations easily and enable a custom experience and a best-of-breed final part or product (or jig or fixture). AM will be yet another manufacturing technology (albeit the coolest and most versatile). 

Now one prediction: by the end of the decade there will be several applications that use AM as a manufacturing technology that cannot even be imagined today. Furthermore, these applications will not be necessarily based on a fantastic geometry but rather because of what industrial AM including a parallel lane of security and consistency enables. Similar to how people could not conceive of Uber in 2008 (one year before it was founded) even though the major technological developments needed for it were already in place. Yet 10 years later, in 2018, peer-to-peer ride-sharing apps were a mainstay. In 10 years I predict there will be several such applications thanks to AM.

Kris Binon, Director, Flam3D

It will be the human factor which will limit – or not – the true breakthrough of AM: let’s hope we will finally have standards and procedures for “easy” QAQC. Let’s hope Additive Manufacturing is a part of schooling at all levels. We need decisionmakers to wake up now to make this happen.

Furthermore: design and production will become application-based. I hope Flam3D’s Key Performance Indicator will not be “to generate business” any more – as business would come in by itself. 

Harry Schmid, founder and Managing Director, Gramm

By the year 2030, there is going to be a 3D printer on the moon, printing the first permanent residence for humans on a celestial object that is not earth. The printer is going to build the floor, walls, and ceilings of that building out of lunar dust. It is much cheaper to ship a 3D printer to the moon that uses local materials than to ship an entire base there. This is going to be a stepping stone to the same thing on Mars.

We are also going to see the implantation of the first fully functional, additively manufactured human femur by the end of the decade. The femur is going to be printed out of a material that is mechanically and biologically equivalent to human bone tissue. It is going to be build using the patient’s own DNA and is going to include bone marrow, blood vessels and all other necessary biomechanical systems that a bone needs to function properly in the body.

In this same time period industrial scale and inexpensive 3D printers for mechatronic devices are also going to be introduced and eventually become commonplace. It is already possible to equip FDM printers with secondary extruders that can add circuitry and simple circuit elements to a polymer part. Today, these systems are not yet mature, and they are expensive. By the end of the decade it is going to be normal to print the circuit board using your 3D printer, and just adding the microchips later. The addition of the microchips may also be a standard feature of this hybrid machine.

Jordi Drieman, 3D Application Specialist, Mimaki

By the end of this decade, we will see far more mass customization than mass production with 3D printing. We should be able to make personalized products for every user and deliver more quality products.

In the automotive industry, there will be some major changes and we will see new environmentally friendly, 3D-printed materials. I believe that 3D printing will play a really important role in our increasing demand for sustainable technologies.

Philipp Schlautmann, Executive Director, 3D-figo

In our field, high-temperature electronics with operating temperatures above 1000°C will be state-of-the-art. Complex motion devices with integrated control electronics and actuators printable in one operation will be possible.

I have extremely high expectations in the field of medicine and medical technology, where great progress for implants made from the body’s own cells will reduce a lot of misery through 3d printing.

Stephan Kühr, CEO, 3YOURMIND

Software helps people in every industry to become more efficient. So when we look at a 10-year-horizon, we already see the first fully digitized and automated factories. We are in the process of implementing a smart factory right now with well-known German 3D Printer and Post-Processing Manufacturers with a huge German Automotive OEM.  These factories will become standard in the upcoming decade. By the end of it, AM will be a significant contributor to global manufacturing.

Wojciech Gaweł, CTO & managing partner, Sonda SYS

I hope that in this decade we will see progress and evolution in the field of smart materials, especially dedicated to 3DP processes. I truly believe that merging smart materials and 3D printing will totally change the way we think about wide manufacturing industry and also the way we buy and use things. If we will be able to produce short series of high specialized or customized items that answers the very specific needs, but still with price affordable for many, the 3D printing has the huge chance to become a most popular and most common manufacturing method. I hope to see it with my own eyes in this decade. 

Lasse G. Staal, CEO, AddiFab

By the end of this decade, I predict (and hope) that printed tooling will have been instrumental in fixing several key flaws in Economies of Scale. The most important include.
Elimination of waste throughout product lifecycles. The superior agility of printed tooling – when combined with conventional tooling – will have allowed manufacturers to trim scale-ups and inventories to dramatically reduce the scrap of energy and materials that results from over-production. At the same time, recycled materials will have received a strong boost as they are brought into the hands of product developers as soon as they have been launched in injection-moldable variants.

Increased support for distributed, localized manufacturing. Printed tooling is a strong enabler of the digital inventory, as conventional – injection-molded – materials may be processed in small batches with the high level of process control that is one of the trademarks of injection molding

Increased support for mass customization and personalization. The ability of printed tooling to cost-efficiently support the production of small batches in certified materials will allow manufacturers in the medical, automotive and other highly regulated industries to offer ever-increasing levels of individualization.

Dror Danai, CBO, XJet

This is far off, but building on my 20-year tenure with the industry (I joined it at the turn of the century) I believe that many of the key benefits of the industry have not changed and are not likely to change. The AM industry is about making geometries that were impossible before, and therefore will continue to do so. The difference is in manufacturing. People will not look into trivial improvements and savings but in dramatic new classes of products that shall be designed for AM and shall allow the world to access products that were not even conceivable before, especially in metal and ceramics. 

Mateusz Sidorowicz, Marketing Director, 3DGence

As said before, there won’t be 3D printers in every home. There will be 3D printers in every company, hospital and university. I hope that the 3D printing industry is going to change the world. All parts in every piece of equipment will be digitilized and manufacture on demand. It will decrease the prices of spare parts and people will repair everyday objects. There will be less waste, we won’t produce overstock as we can produce on demand. The technology will change the minds of constructors and designers. They will think about how to make a product more user-friendly, to make it last longer and repair easier because they will have a technology that will move the boundaries of possibility much further.

There will be an actual 3D printed building and we will start 3D printing human “spare parts”.

Of course, everything will be highly customizable and this customization will be affordable. From cars with the custom interior through smartphones and fashion ending with everyday items. The 3D prints are going to be smart, everything will be the part of IoT, smartphones are going to offer 3D scanning process that will allow “scan to 3D print” function. There will be a 3D printing bureaus in every city where you can get your new or customized part. 

In other words, the future is going to be 3D printed.

Lorenzo Sebastianelli, Sales Manager, 3DPRN

In the coming years more and more companies will introduce more 3D printers in their production processes. This is due to the continuous reduction of the quantities of the production pieces. To reduce these costs, the 3D print is the only solution to date. So many orders for small productions are planned, therefore the 3D print will be the master.

Björn Ullmann, CEO, One Click Metal

By the end of the decade, AM will be an established manufacturing method like many others before. We will look back and think how foolish we were handling things today and how complicated things were. You will be able to access AM like you access your 3D CAD system today! Most likely it will be very common to start your prints from your CAD software just like you would print a 2D drawing of a part today. Everything will be tightly integrated and your printers will be robust and smart. You will no longer have to adjust your print parameters for each application, the printer/software does it for you. 

As pointed out before we see a lot of growth in AM suppliers today and this will go on for a bit longer. However, in most cases there are no set standards for really anything. This is something I sincerely hope will change. We need more established standards so that products from different vendors will become compatible with one another.  As a company, we will help shape and set certain standards in the AM industry.

 Johannes von Borries, Managing Partner, UVC Partners

At the end of the decade, AM will achieve high process stability and reproducibility. To make this happen, the industry needs to introduce quality and process control software and equipment as well as automation similar to the semiconductor industry (e.g. every printed layer will be analyzed for defects and stored for later reference). It will also need a standard data interface for all the equipment to allow for seamless process control integration.  

Johannes Rahn, Technical Sales, SCANLAB GmbH

For the next decade, we expect AM to become widely established in many industrial applications and to gain a relevant role in series production. Digitization of AM will continue and will transform 3D printing machines into key parts of IoT and Smart Factory environments. Expanded training and education programs will help to re-think outdated manufacturing structures and introduce completely new product development processes. Additionally, we assume that standards will play a more important role in the coming years.

Rafał Tomasiak, CEO, co-founder, Zortrax

Long-term predictions are always a bit risky, but I think we could start with identifying key drivers that’s going to push the AM technology forward in the next 10 years. The development of large and expensive machines is going to be driven by industrial, space, and military applications. The rise of reliable 3D printing with highly durable materials like PEEK or metal will eventually make them ubiquitous in low-volume production applications. Building spacecraft and airplanes is what comes to mind here since those are usually made in small quantities and require highly specialized components. 3D printers are going to bring the cost of these components down and enable making new ones that are impossible to make today due to the limitations of traditional manufacturing techniques. We are also going to see 3D printers designed to work onboard manned or unmanned spacecraft in a microgravity environment since it makes more sense to launch a 3D printer with a supply of filaments rather than a fixed set of readily made parts which could prove useless upon arrival. 3D printing grants you high adaptability to unexpected circumstances and that’s exactly what’s needed in remote places in the solar system like Mars or the asteroid belt. Another area where we can expect amazing new technologies to emerge is bioprinting. While I personally doubt we are going to see machines capable of printing fully functional implantable volumetric organs like human hearts or livers, I am convinced 3D printing of skin, cartilage, or similar tissues will become a thing in the late 2020s. I do not believe however that 3D printers will make it as a consumer product available for everyone. At least, not in the next 10 years. But they will indirectly transform how we produce things, how we do business, and how we live in countless ways.

Josef Dolecek,  CEO & Founder, Fillamentum

Is really hard to predict how will be AM by the end of decade as it is a long period. But in my opinion the main trend is clear – AM becomes standard technology and practical tool for mainly professional use. It will definitely lose the sticker “disruptive“ which is positive message for both customers and technology professionals. The second and natural trend is consolidation of the market. The small companies who were pioneers in the industry will be taken over by big names, or they will disappear. 

Jeff Mize, CEO, PostProcess Technologies, Inc

In addition to continued expanded materials offerings and more complex geometries, we hope this decade brings an acceleration towards connecting the end-to-end digital thread across the complete AM workflow. The possibility of AM achieving an Industry 4.0 light-out factory floor is game-changing for the entire manufacturing industry at large. With this, sustainability must also be a critical focus for all parts of the AM process this decade in the shift towards scalable implementation.   

Peter Rogers, APAC Product Specialist – Additive Manufacturing, Autodesk

I predict that there will be a much more integrated design/manufacturing software workflow allowing for better design transparency and smoother iteration methods. This will be supported by the heavy integration of 3D organic design tools, advanced simulation tools, and manufacturing functionalities into individual platforms, which will mostly be cloud-powered. The repeatability of machines and in-situ monitoring will allow for smarter certification methods, and this will fuel the number of parts being mass-produced by additive manufacturing. As a tool in the manufacturing tool box, additive will become more and more valuable over the next 10 years.

Lee Kwang Min, Vice President, Carima

The development of new machines will drive the emergence of new and specialized materials.

As various user experiences and applications emerge, more specialized and developed materials will be accelerated.

The new polymer (plastic) composite materials can be made possible in a stronger or more flexible characteristic, extending the scope of their use to a variety of engineering areas. And this will lead to increase the use of materials, which will also contribute to ensuring the price competitiveness of the materials.  

In addition, new various polymer composite materials including metals, ceramics, and other inorganic particles will emerge, and the new 3D printing market will be expanded to apply them to moldings and models. This will influence gradually to traditional manufacturing markets. (They will naturally accept the 3D printing method in near future.)

On the other hand, 3D printing, which used to be in the production of prototypes, is expected to intensify technical competition to meet the demand of large-scale, high-precision and high-speed for direct production and mass production of various types of products. The market related to 3D printing industry is expected to grow more than 10 times in the next decade.

Andreas Woitzik, Managing Director, GEWO

Two or three years ago, we heard again and again in conversations with users that additive manufacturing was caught up with reality and that the real industrial suitability of 3D printing will probably never be given. With the past Formnext 2019, the whole thing has changed. We noticed here that user confidence in industrial 3D printing has risen sharply again. We believe this is because we, the 3D printer manufacturers, have recognized that 3D printers must be developed to the same standards as those that have long been used for CNC turning and milling centers, for example. In addition to robust mechanical engineering, PLC controls with industry standards are now also used. Now it is essential that we machine manufacturers, hand in hand with the manufacturers of semi-finished products and materials as well as with research, continue to advance the professionalism of additive manufacturing, then it will be impossible to imagine industry without this technology in the next few years.

Shon Anderson, CEO, B9Creations

That additive is viewed with equal capability and credibility to other production methods (molding, milling, etc.) and is utilized to reshape the customer experience ubiquitously.

Rachel Hunt, 3D Printing Marketing Product Manager, Protolabs

By the end of the decade, 3D printing innovations, partnerships, and collaborations will continue to drive the industry. More production use cases for aerospace and medical 3D printed parts will generate solutions that were otherwise unattainable without additive. These solutions will be large scale, large parts and high volume, as the industry is demanding more and more from additive manufacturing.   

Chuck Pfeffer, Director, Product Management, FARO Technologies

I predict the quality control feedback loop will continue to evolve in response to heightened production outputs. We will start to use the vast production data to train machines to self-correct during the production process, monitoring the system and making adjustments on the fly by detecting tolerance changes. This type of artificial intelligence will continue to collect and analyze data to create an even more seamless and integrated inspection process leading toward 100 percent production yield.

Richard Gaigon, CEO, 3DCeram

The 2020s decade will probably end up with an integrated production line, which will allow users to reach the desired quantities of products in high valued materials like silicon carbide (SIC). During the next decade 2020, additive manufacturing will be increasingly prevalent to become a leading production tool. 3D printing perfectly fits the conception of the 4.0 Industry and will become unavoidable. Industrials are now waiting for the maturation of additive manufacturing so they could integrate it to their production pattern. We work actively on this integrated production line. The success of an integrated production line implies improvements on several steps of the process. The big step that will allow the most significant leap is the cleaning of the part. This stage opens up serious prospects for improvement. We are currently working to automate the cleaning stage because our technology now allows it! All the process is supposed to unfold with minimum human action to achieve simplified production management in an integrated chain.

François Leclerc, Marketing Program Manager, Creaform

As 3D printing solutions will lower production costs, their adoption rate within the industry will increase. We will see the democratization of 3D printing technology: it will be accessible to all, at affordable prices, and even with higher performance. This trend has already been experienced in computing and electronics.

 Moreover, advances in material selections (resins and plastics) and metal alloys will continue. Combined with mass manufacturing processes that will continue to gain in performance (faster and cheaper), and the ability to machine complex organic structures, we will see the mass production of custom consumer products.

The properties of resins, linked with production techniques and the unique process of 3D printing, will allow the custom production of consumer products on a large scale. For instance, custom shoes and helmets. Instead of having standard sizes such as small, medium, or large, the dimensions of consumer products could be, thanks to 3D printing, tailor-made and follow the unique profile of each consumer.

Finally, our hope is that 3D printing will contribute to the development of custom-made implants and organs that will be available as needed, allowing better and more optimal care for all.

In short, 3D printing has become mainstream, and it is inevitable. All the predispositions are in place. There is no reason 3D printing should not be implemented in mass production in all spheres of the industry.

Blake Teipel, CEO and Co-founder, Essentium

The industrial additive market has been dominated by closed systems where customers are locked into vendors’ hardware and processes.  As the technology advances, hurdles around economics, scale, strength and speed of production fall away and demand for AM will ramp quickly. This will be a moment for manufacturers to step back and re-assess their relationships with AM vendors. Most will simply not stand for vendor lock-in. Instead, they will demand open ecosystems so they finally have their hands on the steering wheel of their own futures. An open additive ecosystem will see more partnerships focused on giving customers greater control of their innovation, more choice in materials, and industrial-scale production at ground-breaking economics. This will herald a new era in manufacturing that will impact design, time-to-market, design cycles, customization, supply chains, and pricing not only in 2020 but for the next decade.

Simon Mawson, Global Head of 3D Printing, Henkel

In the long-term Additive Manufacturing used at production level will become the key area for applications across industries – ahead of prototyping. With medical and dental markets as well as customized consumer products such as shoes as first movers, many complex and unique parts will be developed that can only be mass-produced with AM technologies in an efficient way. Open systems will have the major share of the materials market with global supply chains essential to the success of the AM production. Software and system integration will be easier and interconnecting between printers and materials with post-processing will be automated via the cloud.

Dayton T. Horvath, Principal, NewCap Partners

Digital workflows for part design, simulation and manufacturing should finally be efficient, accurate, and seamless across all 3D printing technologies. Printers will improve to a degree but there will still be segregation amongst the various 3D printing technology categories by part size, part performance, material selection, and deposition rate. Production applications will be where tooling applications are today and where prototyping was 10 years ago: Mainstream and the focus of the industry at large. The industrial 3D printing trade shows and conferences will remain in name but become increasingly interspersed with other manufacturing technologies ultimately creating a continuum of capabilities for OEMs and service bureaus alike. 

Marco Bauer, CEO, BAM GmbH

Additive manufacturing technologies will establish themselves as a supplement to the technologies known to date, such as milling, turning, forming, welding, etc. Furthermore, my big hope is that by the end of the decade, designers will be able to think and design components in an additive way.

Christian Seidel, Head of Additive Manufacturing, Fraunhofer IGCV

By the end of the 2020s decade, AM processes will be key enabling manufacturing technology in niche applications across industries. Process robustness and performance will be sufficient for the economical production of around about 1% to 5% of an average Company’s total amount of parts.

Manuel Kolb, Commercial Director Additive Manufacturing, Weber Additive

At the end of the decade, we hope and think that plastic 3D printing is firmly established in the industrial segment. As well as that there are many other fields of application.

Furthermore, the topic of recycling is a major challenge, as it is a completely sustainable process chain. Hopefully, we will have taken many steps here, ideally we should have already done so.

Avi Reichental, Founder and CEO, XponentialWorks

My prediction for the end of the decade is that Additive Manufacturing will be the defining transformative force in democratizing habitat and mobility on earth and in space.

Kristin Mulherin, President, AM-Cubed

While the hot topic in 2020 is metal AM, by the end of the decade plastics will have regained some of its glory. A significant restriction in 2020 is AM’s ability to produce parts in limited quantities, relative to injection molding, even with the ‘high’ volume printers we saw enter the marketplace at the end of the last decade. While plastic AM will never reach the volume capabilities of current day injection molding, the quality surely will. And, demand for customization will only continue to accelerate. This leaves the number of applications still requiring the volumes needed for injection molding exponentially decreased, leaving significantly more applications utilizing AM for everyday items. 

Ceramics will also finally see their day. Ceramics AM has always been limited by the need for sintering and unpredictable shrinkage. But, with major metal machine builders now tackling these issues with the improved binder jetting systems and artificial intelligence software, the advances they make will just trickle down to the ceramic AM market.

Neil Hopkinson, Director of Technology, Xaar 3D Ltd.

By the end of the decade Additive Manufacturing will have lost most of its wow factor; and I mean this in a positive sense in that most engineers and designers that are working by the end of this decade will have learned about 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing in their formal schooling and will, quite reasonably, take the technology for granted. 

Hakan Güzelgöz, CEO & Co-founder, 3bfab

It seems difficult to estimate what segment of the industry will grow faster in the next decade however 3d printers will be widely present in every customized manufacturing process whether it is jewelry, teeth, shoes or human tissues. 

Criteria such as high accuracy, speed, specific application case will play an important role however new developments on materials and chemistry may push the industry forward. We look forward to the next decade and invest a large part of our revenue in R&D in these areas.

Michel Despont, Vice-President Emerging Micro and Nano Technologies, CSEM 

In the coming years, I see AM technologies going beyond today’s main application – the manufacturing of topology optimized, static mechanical structures. Emerging concepts are introducing new mechanical, electrical or optical functionalities while keeeping AM’s inherent versatility and flexibility. The future is very exciting, and from these concepts we could perhaps see an AM-based platform that allows the development of a complex mechatronics device for precise instrumentation or even a smart customized device for application in the medical field? Could that be venturing new frontiers for AM. 

CSEM is developing the technological bricks towards this new vision. We are extending achievable precision on high-performance metal and polymer materials. We develop concepts and technologies for integrating functional elements such as built-in compliant structure and electrical feedthrough or, for the integration of sensors & actuators onto structure with complex topology.  Moreover, as AM and printing technologies will obviously not be the manufacturing technology of choice for all desired functionalities, we hybrid AM with different manufacturing technology such as fine machining, microfabrication and casting.

Stefan Leonhardt, co-founder and managing partner, Kumovis

By the end of the 2020s, additive manufacturing will be the go-to technology when it comes to the responsible production of goods in many sectors. Accompanying technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence will moreover play their part in automated production on a daily basis. In addition, the decentralized production approach will have gained acceptance, so that, for example, personalized treatment of patients using 3D printed medical devices will be accessible directly at the point of care.

Mehmet Erkan Ustaoğlu, CEO, Teknodizayn and Loop 3D

In the next decade printing process will become even faster and easier, probably we will see the solutions that will accelerate the mass production processes -3D printing from low-volume production will go in a much larger direction, of course not mass production instantly, but the machines will be even stronger in this respect. Loop 3D already made a step in this direction and will be continuing its mission.

Alex Kingsbury, Managing Director, Additive Economics, Additive Manufacturing Industry Fellow, RMIT University

APPLICATIONS! Those who hold the IP to applications will be the real winners in AM. Expect to see those with applications be prime candidates for investment, strategic partnerships, or acquisition. Applications will drive materials and process development, rather than the other way around. Maturity of different AM modalities means that engineers will have greater choice and flexibility to choose the right technology and cost fit for their products. Standards for AM plays directly into this as reliable, credible standards will be vital for industrial adoption of AM. Much of the standards development work currently underway will bear fruit in the next decade, and standards will begin to form the contract upon how we transact in the AM world. 

Keyvan Karimi, CEO, AMFG

By the end of the decade, we predict that additive manufacturing will have become an established technology for end-part production. A diverse range of production applications will have been developed, making AM the go-to, cost-effective choice for a variety of applications.

The industry will have matured beyond recognition across the hardware, software and materials segments. Standards and best practices for AM will have been established, and the technology combined with other Industry 4.0 technologies, such as artificial intelligence. In short, by the end of the decade, AM will no longer be considered a “niche” technology, but a viable tool in the broader mix of manufacturing technologies.

Sylvia Goldbach, Managing Director & Design, Taktilesdesign GmbH

Software Solutions will be standardized and unified to alternative data formats. New Intelligence combined with tech-workflows and non-Manual interfaces will be influencing almost every company, human, product. Designers will be the ones to evaluate and still, as today, individualize products. Influences to all processes due to CO2 Emission.

Sven Hicken, Head of Additive Manufacturing Business Unit, Oerlikon AM

We expect to see expansion and commitment to research in AM and more collaboration across all players. We expect to see a lot of AM applications across many industries and expect AM will be established as a mature, cost-efficient and promising approach for new designs, like other manufacturing technologies.

Luke Winston, Chief Business Officer, Formlabs

By the end of the decade, hands on expertise with 3D printing will be table stakes for professionals in engineering, design and manufacturing. And 3D printers will be used seamlessly across the entire product lifecycle, from basic prototyping to end use manufacturing. Consumers will interact daily with 3D printed products. It will be an afterthought to them that products like shoes, earbuds, toys, dentures and orthotics among others are 3D printed. They will just expect personalization and not remark on how their headphones were manufactured. 3D printing will be so prominent that people won’t even see it. 

Chengxi Wang, CEO, MyMiniFactory

Looking into the future of the 3D printing industry in the next decade, beyond the impact on how people produce and consume products, there will be major changes in the way people interact. By breaking the barriers of traditional manufacturing and logistics, 3D printable content platforms like MyMiniFactory will bring designers behind the scenes to the centre, create the transparency in design and on-demand manufacturing process, and deepen the connection between the designers and end users. For example, while currently most designers of our daily objects remain unknown, with the assistance of 3D printable content platforms and development of affordable consumer 3D printers, designers can build their own brands and interact directly with their fans. In this regard, a designer economy will be created, which opens up another way of human interaction and monetization beyond the current social media channels, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Andy Langfeld, President, Stratasys EMEA

Driven by companies like Stratasys, I expect the industry to reach new frontiers insofar as print speeds and reliability – two areas that will see the technology likely make inroads into new application areas within its current key industries, as well as open up many new ones.

By the end of this decade, we will likely see a more knowledgeable and experienced AM community, that – certainly at the industrial level – will appreciate the level of technology investment required to meet their exacting and ever-changing application needs. We will also likely see an increase in metal printers as the technology matures and cost of systems decreases.

Overall, it is unlikely that AM will completely replace traditional manufacturing, but while today AM represents less than 1% of all parts produced, within 10 years this could be well into double digits. 

Felix Ewald, CEO & co-founder, DyeMansion

We will see various industries with a high adoption rate of AM and applications being produced by the millions. The basis for this will be incredible fast printers, automation, lower prices for materials, a bigger material variety and above all, time. Maybe the most important factor will be time. 3D-printing is a completely new way to think and manufacture products. This adoption just takes some time. The 20s will provide plenty of time. Anyways, I think even in the end of the 2020s, 3D-printing will be a hype topic. But only because its potential is way too high to be already fully leveraged by then.

Thomas Reiher, Director Generative Design, Simufact / Hexagon

For the 2020 decade I see a continuous integration of 3D printing in the manufacturing sector with more and more parts being produced by additive manufacturing. An increasing acceptance and credibility will drive the growth, new sustainable successful business cases and product innovations will come up, fostering a much broader application of AM. A key driver will be digital solutions accompanying the technology development. Integrated digital workflows will evolve and making it much easier to design and optimize for additive manufacturing. Adoption will not be at a high pace, but a steady growth, not based on a hype, but on realistic use cases where AM can be applied beneficial.

Tim Ruffner, Vice President Enterprise Solutions, Dynamism

By the end of the decade, I hope that there will be materials that are 3D printed which are designated at the title block of 2D Prints that lean toward production. For instance, now it may just say ABS; however I am looking for it to say 3D Printed ABS, or maybe even a specific material from specific manufactures that are spec’d out. This helps those who are either doing production runs or selling equipment know what the end use will be. This comes with education along with standards, and I do feel by the end of the decade we will have accomplished that goal. While we strive to understand production, in my opinion we should focus on designing for the process with the material properties in mind. 

Over the years we know that designers and engineers design for the manufacturing process, then use 3D printing for the prototype in hopes to innovate quicker. This helps the innovation process but really not the production process. The more we educate the community the quicker we can get there. 

Stephan Thomas, Co-founder, Chief Strategy Officer, Identify3D

Throughout the next decade, we will see an easier adaption of AM technologies as the decision making will be less about ROI and more about maintaining competitive advantage. As AM matures in the next decade, standards and compliance requirements will be fleshed out and enforced by consortiums, DoD, DoE, and other government agencies creating a higher barrier of entry and lead to fewer and more established additive technologies. Machine manufacturers will need to invest in both software and materials keeping standards and compatibility at the heart of their strategy. Shop floors will not be productive if they have to deal with numerous closed systems so secure connectivity between manufacturing devices and the cloud will become an industry standard with few exceptions. Lastly, we expect that AM technology will finally deliver on the promise of decentralized manufacturing: deliver the exact number of parts needed, when and where they are needed in a full production supply chain. We live in exciting times and look forward to pathing the way forward with the rest of the industry.

Matthias Schmidt-Lehr, Managing Partner, Ampower

At the end of the 2020’s, the metal AM technology world will look much more diverse than it is today. While LB-PBF will still have the majority due to an increase of qualified applications through the next decade, many other technologies will focus on certain niche applications. Most of the attention however will be on Binder Jetting in the next 10 years. This technology has the potential to be used in many traditional MIM applications. At the end of 2020 we expect Binder Jetting to have reached the same technology maturity as LB-PBF has today.

Isupov Andrey, CEO, Picaso3D

The market is demonstrating the first signs of maturity and before the next year we are going to see some of them. Businesses will be choosing those brands which offer a combination of highly professional yet easy to use hardware, enterprise-level software and most of all a range of industrial-grade materials. 

Another clear trend is further growth of the demand for outsourcing and hence an opportunity for service bureaus to capitalize on it. 

The users of the device are also more proficient than ever – being raised through the 4th industrial revolution they will push the technology to new borders and hopefully by the end of the year, we will see the more pronounced signs of production of the final products becoming a new norm.

Marco Schmid, CEO, Coobx

The development of machines, processes and materials just has begun. Within the next 10 years, we’ll see further developments in all fields of application. The combination of existing and new process technologies will lead to new possibilities for AM. As soon as products are specifically developed for AM production methods the way for wide adaption is given. We are convinced, that the actual material developments in plastics will lead to new product possibilities because these materials are not possible to process with conventional production methods like injection molding and will be much more sustainable than standard thermoplastics. In plastics industry we estimate within the next 10 years a possible share of AM produced parts of about 5% of overall plastic parts. This means that the industrialization of AM is on the right way. 

Additionally, we see more and more product-specific processes and equipment is getting developed to guarantee and qualify the production. There will be centralized and decentralized production solutions depending on the application and the grade of customization from produced parts and quantities needed. In 10 years AM will be a production method adopted and known as today conventional machining like milling and turning. Designers and engineers will know about possibilities and use them to optimize their produced parts.

Matt Gannon, VP of operations, Markforged

Take a good hard look at the standard supply chain today; it’ll never be quite the same again. Throughout this upcoming decade, we’ll see 3D printing revolutionize manufacturers’ processes and enable organizations to be lean and bring manufacturing to the point of use. For example, when an engineer designs a new part, they can go directly to production—rather than going to a supplier, getting a prototype and then waiting for tooling and production then shipping. With a 3D printer on-site, organizations are going to be more nimble, with less downtime and less waste.

As more and more manufacturers begin to realize the true value of additive manufacturing and find it is the best total cost solution to produce their parts, they may strategically outsource work to local service bureaus that can deliver what they need and allow the OEM to focus on their strengths. Here, we’ll begin to see the vision of 3D printing farms actualized. While some exist today, companies are going to begin to take advantage of this market opportunity with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of 3D printers that they can use to quickly produce the parts they need most often. They’ll serve as the new machine shops and factories in their own right, helping reduce supply chain inefficiencies. Rather than having to outsource critical pieces of the manufacturing supply chain overseas, by the end of the decade manufacturers will be taking matters into their own hands—and perhaps we’ll start seeing print farms grow into print factories.

Vishal Singh, Co-Founder & CTO, Link3D

I’m hopeful that the convergence of software and hardware systems will catalyze the growth of additive manufacturing by the end of the decade. I would like to highlight three points.

I believe the future allows for organizations to design print-ready parts at the beginning of the design process, due to implementations of machine learning, advanced simulations, and quantum computing. I predict there will be an influx of hybrid and multi-material technologies that will be introduced to the market. These will create new applications for additive manufacturing that we’ve yet to discover. With a unified data layer across software and hardware, this will provide a foundation for businesses to apply artificial intelligence in additive manufacturing. I believe this will catapult a level of ‘seamlessness’ that will be revolutionary, similar to what we’ve witnessed in the mobile internet industry. 

Production Scheduling’ as it relates to AM, we could expect AM-flow-based machine selection, queue manipulation and build parameter provisioning to ensure organizations maximize their production capacity while maintaining quality specifications and on-time delivery. ‘Hey Google, I need this part to be X, Y, Z’ – we could expect AM users to descriptively express (use of ‘natural language’) to express their requirements and have their designs, material and production parameters recommended using artificial intelligence. On-demand and just-in-time manufacturing can finally be achieved with real-time feedback loop by connecting people, process and technology. This will disrupt manufacturing supply chains, inventory and logistics management, while reducing carbon footprint and promoting sustainability. 

A decade is a long time, however, I do foresee some of the applications above to be available within the next 2-3 years. 

Jon Donner, CEO & Co-Founder, Nanofabrica

By the end of the decade we think that we will see many applications that can only be manufactured using AM machines, and this will be the real breakthrough in the field. This plays not just on the improving economics behind the use of AM, but also its ability to build highly complex parts or parts with innovative geometric aspects in a timely and cost-effective way that are impossible with traditional manufacturing technologies. In the area of micro AM production, this means we will be focussed on micro antennas that can’t be made with other technologies or optical lenses that are of such complexity and precision that they simply cannot be micro molded or machined. The ability of AM to cater for such applications will mean that AM machines will become an indispensable part of the production process and move to the manufacturing floor. Similarly, the possibility to enable mass customization of consumer products will fuel another successful area of application for AM moving forward.

Ben Ferrar, Vice President and General Manager, Carpenter Additive 

It’s not a secret that we expect the industry to continue to evolve and grow throughout the decade, progressing from preliminary prototyping to even more mature, advanced industrial approaches.

More organizations will invest in and partner with facilities that have been designed to take advantage of full traceability and analytical insights from powder to finished part, managing the AM process under one roof. Carpenter Technology is already doing this with our Emerging Technology Center (ETC) in Athens, Alabama. Realizing the value and importance of streamlined workflows governed from within a single facility is an unparalleled benefit to organizations exploring AM. These investments will allow the subsequent development of new additive processes, driving the commercialization of advanced technologies by underpinning the whole process with a digital thread. That’s the AM journey the industry has been waiting for.

Aaron Bent, CEO, 6K

Production, production, production with AM parts!  We see AM for production becoming a very common manufacturing process at scale for organizations.  However, 3 factors will contribute to the adoption.  

The performance of materials and the AM process will significantly increase and will be a much more understood way of manufacturing.  Companies will demand the highest performance from their AM parts and material performance will play a significant role in this area.

Although the cost of AM equipment is viewed expensive, the cost of material is what often contributes more to the cost of parts.  In order for AM production to become mainstream, the cost of the materials will need to significantly decrease. This will force material manufacturers to become way more efficient and deliver higher yields in their own production factories in order to meet the cost pressure that will come with the production of AM parts. 

The number of materials available for AM will have to significantly increase to provide organizations with equal or even greater choices of materials than what’s available of the subtractive side of manufacturing.

Xinfu Xie, Co-founder & COO, Chitubox

In the new decade, all aspects of life are changing, and 3D printing technology is definitely more perfect than today. In many industries, 3D printing technology has been applied to the mass production stage. There are many products that are updated very quickly. Everyone’s life will also be changed by 3D printing technology. Just like what is happening in medical, education, automotive and other fields, this will be a very bright future.

Josh Martin, CEO and Co-Founder, Fortify

This will be a very exciting decade for the AM industry. Functional materials are being developed at a rapid rate, and systems are being designed with more of an eye towards production throughput. I believe that at the end of the current decade, there will be many examples of customer-specific solutions that span across the entire AM workflow, from materials development, through systems engineering, and into post-processing. A present-day example is Align, with its fully integrated system that gives customers an end-to-end solution, allowing for manufacturing at scale.

Alessio Lorusso, CEO & Founder, Roboze

What I predict for the upcoming 10 years is a significant development of new materials, aiming at addressing the most extreme companies’ needs in terms of performances.

Healthcare is one of the sectors that, in my opinion, will see a series of dedicated solutions, focusing on generating advantages for the users but, first of all, for patients.

Also Education will be increasingly involved in stimulating the knowledge and experiences for creating new dedicated resources, new ideas, new projects.

Sylvia Monsheimer, Head of New 3D Technologies, Evonik 

By end of the 2020s, 3D printing will have been an established production method besides injection molding. A new wave of engineers, digital natives if you will, will have created exciting new business models. They will have lived in cities without owning a car and be accustomed to taking greater care of our environment. Sustainability will have been the key driving point for the development of new materials and applications. Zero waste strategy will have meet reality. Based on that, a wide range of new 3D printing materials for different applications will have been available – supported by Evonik’s expertise of course. However, the way the material is going to be managed in the market will have been close to how materials for injection molding are managed today. However, there still will be a strong relationship to the machine suppliers due to the strong interaction between machine – material and process in comparison to injection molding. Sustainability will have been the key driving point for the development of new materials and applications.

From my point of view, the 2020s will be a decade of consolidation at all positions along the value chain. I definitely expect a decade of new applications for 3D printing across all branches.

Martin Back, Managing Director, BigRep GmbH

Today, despite its already revolutionary impact, we are only seeing a glimpse into AM’s future. Manufacturing readily available spare parts is a key application that will only increase in relevance. With 3D printing, airlines and rail operators will be able to reproduce 10-15 % of all their spare parts this decade, quickly and cost-efficiently. It’s already one of the most fascinating disruption technologies of the 21st century! By the late 2020s, but I believe earlier than that, AM will fully enable mass customization and assembly consolidation, making spare parts deliveries faster and reducing spare parts inventories while minimizing material waste. 

As for BigRep, we are on a mission to become the number one supporting company to unlock the disruptive potential of additive manufacturing to the industrial production process: We dream of a world where every industrial user is enabled to create their own product locally on a large-format BigRep solution. 

Xavier Martínez Faneca, CEO, BCN3D

From my honest point of view, I believe that the great advance in this decade will be the improvement in the user experience. I believe that the hardware is increasingly reaching its maximum level, and the next steps are to facilitate and inform users about the range of materials with which they can print to extend the range of their applications as well as facilitate interaction with the hardware through connectivity, software and the cloud.

Kunal Mehta, Principal Consultant, Blueprint

We’re at an interesting inflection point, where additive is no longer an emerging technology. You’ll continue to see signs of a maturing industry: collaborations, mergers, acquisitions and big-name entrants. In fact, I’d argue 2020 is a tipping point for “industrial” and “production” additive manufacturing for the next decade. The core to this tipping point will be education, both for executives and for the engineers and designers who engage with the technology every day. Executives will need to understand how 3D printing will impact their business and more importantly how to deliver and implement on the technology’s value. Engineers and designers will need to start to learn how to “think Additively” (including but beyond “design for additive”) and understand when to use and not to use the technology. Regardless, everyone will need to take a leap of faith and start piloting the technology for ‘production’ additive manufacturing to become an everyday reality.

Blake Courter, CTO, nTopology

By the end of the decade, booting up a new functional, advanced manufacturing process will be as straightforward as prototyping with additive today.  Engineering software will no longer be rigid, instead of adapting to the custom materials and properties of a new process as data becomes known. Vast libraries of functional materials will become available, as well as reference materials, models, and builds to which one may calibrate a new process.  Economies will form around digital assets containing this design and manufacturing intellectual property. Generative and topology optimization will work quickly at an assembly scale, playing a more interactive role in the engineering process. Automation technology will continue to make traditional manufacturing more efficient, as CAD designers will no longer place manufacturing features like thin walls, round radii, or draft angles, or even entire parts like mold core and cavities, which will instead be generated as part of the in the manufacturing pipeline. 

Andre Wegner, Founder & CEO, Authentise

The 2020s are the decade in which additive truly merges with general digital production or vice versa. Of course, there will be significant improvements in core additive areas such as build times – we expect at least a 10x but likely 100x in build time improvements. But in other areas the additive differentiation will disappear completely: Software, for example. Additive features (tool pathing, support, nesting, orientation, etc) will be completely merged into general manufacturing software tools, but not without making an impact on them. The advantages of additive – more data availability and less legacy – have put it in a prime position to serve as a learning environment to more traditional verticals. Software is one area in which that is most evident.

The results of this merger will be evident in all critical areas, such as design, production and certification. In design, we expect that by the end of 2029 most product databases are starting to capture design constraints as well as design geometries in standard formats in order to convey intent and prepare rapid adoption by newly emerging manufacturing tools or materials. Producing those designs will be increasingly local and on-demand. We expect more than 10% of global production output – almost $2tn USD – to be produced that way by digital manufacturing devices. Certification obviously has to happen differently in that context, and we expect that the next decade will start moving certification from physical testing towards pure data-driven certification processes. 

Christian Lönne, CEO, Digital Metal

We believe binder jetting is the most promising metal AM technology with massive market potential for the decade ahead. We will see new product designs and functionality as engineers and companies fully embrace the opportunity of 3D printing with benefits such as new geometries, weight reduction, fewer production steps, and higher production flexibility. We also believe 3D printing will have an important role to play in our efforts to become a more sustainable world by for instance eliminating waste and reducing energy costs. Our ambition and vision for the 2020s is that 3D printing will be the decade where we take a large step towards a new production paradigm that has the potential to change whole industry value chains, creating new business models and new opportunities. Lots of hard work ahead for the industry, but also great opportunities for innovation and development!

Jon Wilde, VP Product, SimScale GmbH

I would hope that by the end of the 2020s, I can order a part for my car and have it 3D printed and delivered the same day.

Honestly, I’m not so worried about plastic printing. Although I see it’s use in prototyping, I’m not sure how it could ever overtake mass manufacturing. I hope that we can make huge strides in metal or a replacement for it that we can still print.

Manufacturing seems likely to move to a new system where it is far more local with nearly immediate turnaround times, manufacturing to order.

Maybe we could even find new materials that replace metal and can still be printed or stitched together.

Tim Weber, Global Head of 3D Metals, HP

Over the next decade, sustainable production will be accelerated as manufacturers incorporate 3D printing into their supply chain. 3D printing and digital manufacturing is driving a world with less waste, less inventory and less CO2 emissions with a potentially profound impact on the planet given nearly one-third of CO2 emissions stem from manufacturing. Engineers and designers will further rethink design throughout the product lifecycle to use less material and reduce waste by combining parts and using complex geometries to produce lightweight parts. This further reduces the weight of vehicles and aircraft to improve fuel efficiency which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption. We’ll also see more manufacturers transmit digital files for production locally rather than shipping goods, which means significant decreases in shipping, reducing costs, energy consumption, waste and emissions.

Kevin Han, CEO & Co-Founder, AON3D

Well before the end of the decade we will begin to see mature end-use & production applications in AM starting with a few key industries such as aerospace, defense, automotive, & healthcare. The ability to develop standards, certifications, and workflows will be a bottleneck, but the value proposition is so compelling that the investment is justified. The lessons learned in these industries will set the blueprint for adoption by other industries to result in a “trickle-down” effect.

Similar to how parts of the developing world leap-frogged landlines in favor of mobile phone adoption, AM will be the entry point to fully digital manufacturing for many SMEs, allowing them to potentially gain an advantage over larger, more established players. 

AM is not meant to completely replace traditional manufacturing techniques. In the future, there will be two parallel manufacturing ecosystems – the ecosystem of today which is a well-oiled machine for efficiently delivering products at scale, and another ecosystem of on-site manufacturing for products that require customization, are built in low-volume, or need rapid delivery times, enabled by AM.

There are massive efforts underway to develop and promote AM in regions that are not traditionally considered hubs for advanced manufacturing such as the Middle East – by 2030, we may be surprised at where the most mature AM applications can be found.

Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO, voxeljet

In 2019 we have witnessed the decline in economic growth. AM holds the potential to face the challenges many industry leaders are currently coping with, giving it the chance to demonstrate its strengths and suitability for rapid development and also flexible serial production. 

Just like some beacons already enlight the path, by the end of 2020 we will see many more integrations of AM into the serial production in a wide variety of industry both in the B2B but also for B2C products, as an alternative to tool-based processes.

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Featured image shows Wolfmet 3D tungsten additive manufacturing. Photo by Michael Petch.