It surprises many that 3-D printing is nearly 35 years old. From its early days in the 1980s, it has been a tool for designers, used to create prototypes. But that is changing.
Over the last 15 years, new innovative uses have emerged,
from making lattices to grow human bladders to producing
customized car bodies. The growth trend shows no sign
of abating: According to research firm International Data
Corporation, spending on 3-D printing is estimated to
increase from US$13.2 billion in 2016 to $28.9 billion in 2020,
with a compound annual growth rate of about 22. 3 percent.
Recent advances in 3-D printing technology have moved it
into a new space — the manufacturing of industrial products
and components for end use. These developments have
New materials. 3-D printers, which have historically made
things in plastic, are now able to produce items in metals,
ceramics, resins and even organic matter. Also, multiple
materials can be used at once.
Higher specs. Because an item is built layer upon layer,
designs can be as complicated as need be. The precision of
3-D printers has increased dramatically, allowing for a higher-quality finished product.
No longer just for prototypes, 3-D
printers have the capability to
reshape supply chains.
BY LEN PANNE T T