The world has changed drastically over the past decade. One thing is for certain: Volatility is the new normal, with geopolitical conflict, the pandemic, labor and material shortages, supply chain disruptions and the climate crisis making the demand for breakthrough solutions higher than ever.
Now, thanks to increased digitization and technological advancements, 3D printing technology has developed to a point where it can not only help overcome these issues but also make manufacturing processes more efficient.
3D printing and additive manufacturing are at the forefront of a massive industrial revolution, one that is driven by high demand for a solution to global supply chain challenges, growing consumer preferences for hyper-personalized and sustainable products and the need to create innovative and sustainable designs to remain competitive against competitors.
Building a More Resilient Supply Chain
Global insecurities have hit the manufacturing industry hard over the past few years, leaving supply chains in a vulnerable state. With companies in need of a revolutionary solution to these supply chain challenges, the benefits of 3D printing within the manufacturing industry become increasingly clear.
3D printing easily tackles the pain points that accompany traditional manufacturing methods as it eliminates the need for manual labor to operate, makes assembly line tasks repeatable, centralizes production and allows manufacturers to create new geometries and parts on-demand, all of which improve product quality.
This on-demand part production is key to transforming both local and global supply chains as parts can be printed in response to rapid market changes. Companies can develop, iterate and manufacture goods while monitoring demand rates and making adjustments accordingly, enabling a quicker and more efficient time to market.
A growing ecosystem of partners and advancements in additive manufacturing have reached a point where 3D printing is both commercially available and cost-competitive with traditional manufacturing methods. Now, companies both small and large across a wide range of industries can transform the way they design, manufacture and deliver goods so that they are better suited for customers’ needs, tipping the scale toward more localized production and improving the health of the global supply chain.
The Push for Personalization
Consumer preferences are stronger than ever before, and it is personalization that they want. A recent study found that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized products and 76% get frustrated when they do not receive it, meaning meeting and adjusting to customers desires is crucial for a brand’s survival.
However, it is not enough for companies to simply recognize that consumers want and expect personalization in today’s market. They need to be able to keep up with this high demand that is projected to continue well into 2023.
Traditional manufacturing processes have been unsuccessful in meeting consumer demands for mass-personalization. Existing processes require accurate trend forecasting to build up stock ahead of time, which is difficult in itself without the impact of sales spikes and demand surges. These drawbacks can have a trickle-down effect into every element of a company’s supply chain, especially if there are wait times or increased costs to maintain the bulky machinery required to enable customization.
Where traditional manufacturers fail to rise to the occasion is where 3D printing technology shines. Additive manufacturing is extremely flexible and self-reliant as it enables quick and cost-effective short runs. Every industry will benefit from embracing personalization in manufacturing, and with 3D printing, brands will be set up for success in increasingly competitive markets (consumer, health and wellness, automotive and more).
Sustainability Goals Become Actionable with 3D Printing
Along with personalization, sustainable products are in high demand for consumers. In fact, a recent survey found that in order to address climate change nearly half of consumers changed their activities or purchasing behavior during the pandemic. Given that manufacturers play a significant role in a company’s ability to meet their sustainability goals—from the way they produce products and develop their supply chains to the packaging they use—companies are focusing their efforts on uncovering more sustainable alternatives to current manufacturing methods.
Although pledging to meet sustainability goals is a step in the right direction, embracing sustainability is not a simple task and requires a complete transformation in the way companies operate. But with a breakthrough solution like 3D printing, a more sustainable future becomes much easier to achieve.
While enabling a circular economy, reducing and reusing materials in production, increasing the recycling of spent powders and parts, and localizing production, 3D printing does it all while creating more value out of production systems.
One area where additive manufacturing has already demonstrated its sustainable impact is packaging. AM technology makes molded fiber—an eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to plastic packaging—more accessible while also reducing the business need to engage in costly and environmentally harmful material disposal methods.
However, this is only the beginning for what 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology can do to help companies reduce their carbon footprint. As more brands embrace a circular economy powered by digital manufacturing and 3D printing, new partnerships and collaborations will emerge, opening the door for new ways to use, reuse and dispose of parts and materials in a way that benefits companies and consumers.
More Innovative, Sustainable Designs on the Horizon
Investing in increasingly advanced and innovative technologies like 3D printing allows companies to meet the needs of fluctuating consumer demands while also pushing the boundaries of design innovation at scale. And as we look towards the future, the more companies that invest in these key technology areas, the closer we are to positioning the U.S. manufacturing sector for an overhaul and rebound, which has the potential to raise the country’s GDP by over 15%.
3D printing is at the forefront of a massive push toward digitization thanks to the benefits it provides manufacturers, making processes both uniform and repeatable and ultimately optimizing workflows and accelerating production lifecycles. With mundane tasks operating seamlessly, 3D printing allows brands to apply the technology in new and innovative ways, enabling complex, high-quality, sustainable and geometrically concise designs to come alive for the first time.
With the advancements made to date with 3D printing technology, the future holds endless opportunities for the next generation of solutions to help users overcome new manufacturing challenges, break the mold of what is expected in terms of product design and apply this technology in ways once thought unimaginable.
The future of additive manufacturing is vast and we are only scratching the surface with the opportunities 3D printing has to provide manufacturers around the world. As we move through 2023, more industries will be integrating 3D printing into their production floors as the benefits of the technology continue to speak for themselves.
Wayne Davey is the global head of sales and go-to-market for HP’s 3D Printing Solutions organization.