With the emergence of 3-D printing, whoever thought the 'Star Trek replicator' would stay fictional may be proven wrong. This concept has become one of the premier disruptive technologies transforming traditional industrial models and sparking a new industrial revolution. The possibility of 3-D printing's evolution from a tool to create jewelry and spare parts to one that can print cars someday, is redefining the scope of several industries. Only after 2020, however, will the technology reach tipping point and begin to print complex metal systems and large aircraft parts.
The aerospace/defense and automotive segments are among the early adopters of 3-D printing technologies. Using these technologies, participants in these industries have realized significant time savings in developing prototypes and experienced shorter product development cycles.
With improvements in supporting technologies, 3-D printers will become faster, more accurate and thus better suited formass manufacturing practices. As 3-D printing technology is in an early stage of development, it cannot directly compete with traditional technologies in the manufacturing sector. Further, while the costs of these technologies have fallen dramatically from 2007 and mademanufacturing-on-demand a reality, they are still too stiff for customers to bear.
"It is important to lower cost of ownership through establishment of global standards for 3-D printing raw materials,"said Frost & Sullivan Visionary Innovation Research Group Senior Research AnalystRobin Varghese. "This will fuel mass adoption of 3-D printers in the household and allow more manufacturers to document, relay and realize demand in real time, eliminating the need to store finished products based on forecasted demand. Such standards will also lead to the emergence of numerous standalone 3-D printing raw material manufacturers."
3-D printing technology also has the potential to drive economies of scale for small, innovative enterprises. Its ability to facilitatemass customization is the most attractive proposition. Market leaders have begun adjusting sales, distribution and marketing strategies to cater to end users' custom specifications of products as well as print and deliver 3-D printing solutions to their doorstep.
"With a fragmented yet open value chain and no clear one-stop-shop solutions, the market is seeing many solution providers monetizing 3-D printing by offering value added services that revolve around design and customization,"said Frost & Sullivan Visionary Innovation Research Group Team Lead Archana Devi Vidyasekar."Business models such as in-house 3-D printing, contract manufacturing, 3-D printing as a service, and retail 3-D printing are also emerging as means to enhance profitability."
Future of 3-D Printing—Key Implications to Industries is one of several mega-trend studies offered by Frost & Sullivan. Other available mega-trend studies include: Top Global Mega Trends to 2025 and Implications to Business, Society, and Cultures (2014 Edition), Connected Living, City as a Customer - Identifying Growth Opportunities in Cities of Tomorrow and Mega Trends inChina. All studies included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.