Industrial Additive Manufacturing
Industrial additive manufacturing applications are primarily linked to prototyping in the automotive field and early adoption for production in the aerospace segment, which is by far the biggest user of polymer and especially metal 3D printing technologies.
As machine production throughput has increased in recent years, industrial adoption of AM is now beginning to extend to short and medium batch production for the automotive segment as well. Furthermore, as new metal and polymer technologies now enable the production of larger parts at reduced costs, the use of AM has begun to contaminate the energy segment (with applications in both traditional and sustainable energy production and transport) and the marine segment.
While the cost and time reduction benefits of AM technologies for weight and (topology) optimization, subassemblies and generative part design have been well documented, several hurdles still exist that are limiting the widespread adoption of these key technologies in full end-to-end digital and automated production cycles. Several of these hurdles are inherent to the AM technologies and related material availability, however, the biggest challenges remain linked to process standardization, part finishing and repeatability.
Today every major aerospace or automotive manufacturer has made some significant strides toward the adoption of AM both for internal R&D and production and by leveraging external 3D printing service bureaus as a key resource for outsourced supplies. Every AM-related industrial project is growing and the trend is clearly accelerating.