Consumer Products

As high throughput and production-ready technologies for both polymer and metals continue to enter the market, 3D printed consumer products have become an increasingly relevant segment of additive manufacturing. Literally, millions of consumer products have begun integrating mass-produced and, in some cases, mass-customized, 3D printed elements.

The idea of consumer products 3D printing refers primarily to industrially 3D printed products rather than low-cost consumer 3D printers. Consumers of industrially 3D printed products are concerned with the products themselves and only very marginally with the processes used for making them. They are users of 3D printed products because these are better, more efficient, more customized products, not because they are 3D printed. For this reason, AM technologies must be able to offer a product that is equal or superior to conventionally manufactured ones, at a comparable cost.

Some of the most common commercially available 3D printed consumer products today include eyewear frames and footwear products (insoles, midsoles, sandals), as well as sporting equipment and gear. These product categories all leverage 3D printing to offer improved customization and better performances through more efficient product geometries that ensure lightweight and ergonomic properties. Within this segment, areas such as 3D printed footwear, 3D printed eyewear and 3D printed sportswear are embracing AM technologies at a very rapid pace, driven by higher productivity polymer AM systems.

3D printing has been used to both develop and produce consumer sporting equipment products and parts. These include snowboarding bindings, goggles, ski boots, golf clubs, professional football helmets and several types of entire bicycles and bicycle parts.

Another typical consumer product segment using 3D printing at various levels is jewelry. In this case, 3D printing is primarily used for indirect production via lost wax casting, enabling more advanced geometries with traditional materials. The next generation of jewelry products are using additive manufacturing as a direct manufacturing tool for technical ceramics and direct precious metal additive manufacturing.

Consumer 3D printing

This category of adopters was created when the RepRap movement made many of the technologies and processes necessary to build 3D printers available to everyone through open-source sharing of information. Focusing primarily on filament extrusion and – in minor part – on DLP stereolithographic technologies, this movement led to a further, drastic reduction in the price of some 3D printers, taking it from the $5,000 professional and prosumer cost level to below $1,000. Now there are very efficient consumer systems for both filament and resin 3D printing, mainly from Chinese manufacturers, for as low as $200. According to our recent Polymer AM Market Report, these are now sold in the order of several million units per year.

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