Trends in Additive Manufacturing for end-use production with Shapeways

3D Printing Industry is taking an in depth look at how additive manufacturing is moving to production. Over the coming weeks the results of interviews with industry leading practitioners will be published.

This article is part of a series examining Trends in Additive Manufacturing for End-Use Production.

Blair Georgakas is Senior Materials Product Manager at Shapeways. Founded in 2007, as a spin-out of Royal Philips Electronics, Shapeways now has factories and offices in Eindhoven, Queens, and Seattle.

3D Printing Industry:  What is your percentage estimate of how much your printers are used for production versus other applications?

Blair Georgakas: The large majority of our printing capacity is used for end-use consumer products. The remaining products are primarily prototypes and tooling for other processes.

3DPI: Do you have an estimate of the addressable market for AM in production?

BG: If you consider the opportunity across a range of industries including, but not limited to, automotive, aerospace, medical, jewelry, fashion and apparel, wargaming, miniatures, repairs, and home decor, I believe the addressable market is massive. The current consumer 3D printing market revenue is estimated to be just over $1,700M in 2017 for consumers and is estimated to grow by 22% yearly over the next 5 years, according to Industry ARC’s 2017 Report on the Consumer 3D Printing Market.

3DPI: Which industries or verticals are leading in the use of AM for end use production?

BG: Shapeways has a diverse, creative community of designers making products for a never-ending list of end-use applications. We have an unusual challenge for a manufacturing company: high-volume, high-mix production parts. Although our products are diverse, we do see high adoption in: jewelry; technology gadgets and accessories; miniatures and scale models; tabletop gaming; remote control cars; eyewear; fashion and wearables; art and home decor. In general, additive manufacturing in the automotive, aerospace, and medical industry is growing rapidly for both tooling and end-use production due to cost and lead time advantages.

3DPI: What barriers does AM face for production and how are these surmountable?

BG: Additive manufacturing has distinct advantages over traditional manufacturing including cost advantage for small part quantities, short manufacturing time, and the ability to manufacture very complex geometries. However, it is still not the best choice for every application. There are barriers which have delayed mass adoption including cost, material properties, end quality, and education.

In the last year, we have seen many companies working on new 3D printing technology to address these barriers. New printers have been released at a fraction of the cost of existing technology with triple the output, new companies are emerging solely focused on improving post production labor and quality, and there are now printers on the market which can produce parts with material properties matching that of other methods. It is such an exciting time for additive manufacturing because I believe within the next couple of years there will be far fewer reasons to use traditional manufacturing methods for end-use production.

One of the biggest barriers for adoption is still a steep learning curve for education. This applies not only to educating manufacturers on the advantages of additive manufacturing and when to use it, but also to teaching consumers how to 3D design so that anyone can turn an idea to a physical product using a platform such as Shapeways.

3DPI: Are there any notable trends in AM for end use production?

BG: As 3D printing technology patents have expired over the last couple years, many new technologies and companies have emerged, and as a result, competition is rising. Cheaper and faster printers are entering the market as well as cheaper raw materials. In the next year or two, we will see the cost of products continue to drop, which will make additive manufacturing a much more affordable option to the consumer.

3DPI: Can you name any specific case studies where AM is used for end use production?

BG: Many new eyewear companies have emerged that focus on customized frames according to one’s face shape. Think of going to a site and scanning or uploading a picture of your face. You can then choose a custom frame style and adjust the shape and size so you can get a pair of glasses that will fit your face perfectly. Since this is a unique product, additive manufacturing provides an affordable option to produce a single print of these items.

This article is part of a series examining Trends in Additive Manufacturing for End-Use Production.

You can read more about Shapeways here.

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