Report gives mixed messages for rapid prototyping services

3D Printing ServiceThe growth in 3D printing of 7{ed34752d3d9237811f2899a265685e36705e4e86722207f201c96dd1cfc4a167} per year reported in Ibisworld’s December 2011 report was of course interesting but what is even more interesting now is to read Ibisworld’s new report into 3D printing and Rapid Prototyping services and seeing just how the rapid prototyping services industry is changing due to the growth of 3D printing and the rapid development of 3D printing technology.

What seems clear is that the growth of 3D printing isn’t slowing, with Aerospace and Medical sciences finding increasing numbers of ways to use 3D printing both for direct manufacturing and rapid prototyping services: demand will increase and the money is certainly there in these industries to fuel innovation.

It is also true that companies not using 3D printing either in house or out of house will have a clear disadvantage to those who do, we are past the early adopters stage and within certain industries 3D printing is main stream.

Certainly it is clear from this latest report that those rapid prototyping services companies who use 3D printers are able to provide models and prototypes in much less time with much better accuracy. The level of accuracy not only includes dimensions but also texture, color and weight.

Other innovations that are still at the early adopter stage include printers able to print in a much wider variety of materials, importantly including metals but also ceramics and glass. Though the uptake of simple resin and plastics printing 3D printers is ongoing the next stage is likely to be the uptake of these multi-material 3D printers, some will even be able to make products made of multiple materials.

At the same time that 3D printing looks to make rapid prototyping services more useful for customers and perhaps more efficient the Ibisworld report looking forward also sounds a word of warning for rapid prototyping companies. The availability of consumer and enterprise level 3D printers may make rapid prototyping services companies superfluous as more small and medium businesses bring 3D printing in house, where a designer will be able to send their own designs to a printer and get results back in hours.

The availability of consumer level 3D printers as well will affect not only how prototypes are made but also how products are designed as well. Where in the past a budding designer might work for a bigger company to get their designs made or send off designs: they can now go through the entire design process and even manufacturer and test market a product printed on a 3D printer. If they are successful this puts them in a much stronger position if they choose to go into mass production.

As the report identifies of course the actual skills to design are what may hold things back, at the same time though 3D printers are starting to make their way into schools and certainly universities for use on courses including design where CAD skills are becoming essential.




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