Digital warehouses, education and manufacturing: Five 3D printing predictions for 2020

February 07, 2020

2019 was a big year for the 3D printing industry as it made its way towards reaching its projected value of almost $50bn by 2025. Throughout the year, many companies made strides with 3D printing and soon realised the benefits, but what’s next for 3D printing in 2020? Which new business opportunities will be unlocked and what is needed to overcome the final barriers? From increased adoption of 3D printing in classrooms and the growth of distributed manufacturing, to the rising importance of the 3D printing ecosystem, Jos Burger, CEO of Ultimaker, gives five key predictions for 3D printing in 2020.

Companies will embrace the digital warehouse

2020 will see 3D printing unlock numerous new business opportunities, leaving the long lead times and expensive delivery costs waiting for orders to be fulfilled that came with traditional part sourcing, in the past. Instead, companies will recognise that 3D printing can produce customised parts on demand and address needs immediately, even tailored to customer requests. Such benefits have already been seen in Gerhard Schubert GmbH, a German producer of large packaging machines, which has fully adopted a digital warehouse and seen success with printing parts for their packaging machines on demand.

Desktop 3D printing will close the manufacturing skills gap

As 3D printing technology becomes more integrated into existing workflows, 2020 will see 3D printing-specific jobs and careers merge to meet the growing demand. In particular, the rise of desktop 3D printing, digital distribution and local manufacturing will continue to lower the entry barrier for manufacturing professionals, enabling more organisations to realise the growing benefits of lower costs and quicker turnaround times.

3D printing will earn its place in the classroom

Technology is changing the workforce, so education needs to change too to prepare the employees of the future. That change is more than just putting an iPad in the classroom. 2020 will see 3D printing used in schools to prepare students for jobs of the future, giving a whole new dimension to learning and applying technology to all subjects. With fewer barriers in place, the wide adoption of 3D printing will see students and enterprise employees gain useful skills, giving them the skills they need to thrive in their future careers in Industry 4.0.

Distributed manufacturing and 3D printing will grow in tandem

The growing demand for more customised parts delivered quickly will not slow down in 2020. Whereas previously manufacturers have scrambled to meet their needs, in 2020, the growing awareness of 3D printing will mean that manufacturers will be able to produce jigs, tools, fixtures and prototypes on-demand, at a lower cost and at a faster pace than traditional sourcing.

Integrating the 3D printing ecosystem will lead to long-term growth

There is an entire 3D printing ecosystem that is waiting to be adopted, and the companies that see this potential will rise to the top. Going beyond embracing the printer hardware itself and also embracing material partnerships, software offerings and cloud adoptions will push companies towards long-term growth as they make the integration of technology truly seamless for end users.

Conclusion

Ultimaker’s 2019 inaugural 3D Print Sentiment Index research shows that 65% of the world’s businesses are either unaware of 3D printing or have not implemented the technology into their workflow. This will change in 2020, as 25% of businesses surveyed believe that 3D printing will be widely adopted in the next two years – compared to only 7% today. This awareness will only aid the adoption of digital warehouses, make the manufacturing skills gap smaller and support the growing use of 3D printing in education. Coupled with the wider adoption of 3D printing within manufacturing and embracing the 3D printing ecosystem, there are endless opportunities for companies across numerous sectors to reap the benefits of 3D printing and make strides to get streets ahead of the competition.

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