3D printing industry worth 1 Billion and climbing

It was inevitable that it would happen eventually but it may be a surprise to some that 3D printing is already a Billion dollar industry despite being seen as currently still a niche waiting to break into the mainstream.

Though it may be an industry that turns over a Billion dollars a year now 3D printing for those that use it is more about the amount of money it saves companies: whether they are using 3D printing for rapid prototyping services or for manufacturing.

Much of the value of the 3D printing industry is currently in rapid prototyping services but the manufacturing side is growing quickly. In traditional manufacturing there is a lot of waste with techniques such as machining and other tooling, this means in industries where materials, such as titanium, are expensive saving that material can easily cover the extra costs such as more expensive materials to begin with and the cost of the machinery. This is only recently possible however as until recently most 3D printers only printed in plastic, now however they can print in many different materials including using metal powder that is then heated or bound to make it solid. This is the case with the 3D printing done by General Electric, they use a laser based 3D printer to fuse cobalt chrome powder: the resulting unit not only saves on material because there is no waste, only the powder needed is placed ready to be fused, but also because the part can be made using less material: making it lighter while just as strong if not stronger compared to a equivalent unit made by welding machined metal parts together.

General Electric use 3D printing technology for items such as fuel injectors, it certainly helps if these are lighter, what about parts for aircraft though: Boeing have used 3D printing for many parts on the new Dreamliner, cutting down the weight of thousands of parts by 50{ed34752d3d9237811f2899a265685e36705e4e86722207f201c96dd1cfc4a167} or more can contribute to saving thousands in fuel for each part in each aircraft each year.

For rapid prototyping services as well the cost savings are important but even more important are the time-savings, which in themselves often have massive value. If a company is using a rapid prototyping service to develop a new product then being able to quickly print accurate models may cut weeks off development time and also make things such as testing and using customer focus groups more easy. Often companies will use rapid prototyping services to make 3D printed models for development and then use traditional machining techniques for manufacture of items still but even in these cases 3D printing can help as it can be used to make molds that can then be used in manufacturing: this can in itself cut weeks off setup time and ensures molds are far more accurate. In the race to be first to market with an item or to copy a competitor before they get too much of a market share a few weeks saved using 3D printing can be worth millions.

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