For ordinary people to know exactly the growth of 3D printing services industry, it might need a comprehensive article like The Economist to show it. Its growth, together with the 3D scanning technology, will amaze the people who are not directly involved in the industry or those who use it for personal purposes. It will change the way people and manufacturers look the future of 3D printing industry.
The 3D printing industry is dominated by prototyping. According to an article in The Economist, the finished products account for 20 percent and Terry Wohlers predicted that 50 percent of the 3D printing products will be finished by 2020. The technology itself took big steps ahead in terms of accuracy, materials used in printing, and the items can be printed complete with moving portions. There is design of a plastic mechanical clock the directly worked off of the 3D printer that created it.
The 3D printing can provide great savings on assembly costs because it can print already assembled products, and could even challenge even mass production method in the future. No material is wasted with 3D printing service because of the additive process; thus, it gives additional savings. Moreover, there is no cost in setting up the machine to make the computer-designed product. The computer design files are sufficient to create a finished product, and communicate directly to 3D printers.
The Economist pointed out that 3D printing could abolish a central tenant of microeconomics, also known as economies of scale. Almost all manufacturing industry is run based on the economies of scale theory where these companies make products more than they can actually sell because each product cost is cheap. They later on sell the extra at a regular price without discount. This also applies to 3D printing manufacturers as they can produce 200 products at cost worth for 100 products, and when the demand goes high they can sell all 200 products at once.
The article writer of The Economist visited an aerospace facility in UK to check how they use 3D printing service. Perhaps the most important benefit in using such service is the savings on materials. Titanium is used in the aerospace industry, and such material is extremely expensive. Using tiny proportion of titanium block to make small parts will really have a direct impact on the costs. The use of titanium powder in just the small quantities needed is far cheaper. This kind of high-tech industries might be the first industries where 3D printing will grow first.
Customized parts also have a potentially big growth area for 3D printing services. These include products that are urgently needed, and that the company can print such product by themselves or by a local 3D printing services rather than getting it overseas. Although customization means individually customized products, this could also include products made with tweaks to a standard design. Most homes do not have a 3D printer, but a local 3D printing service shop can provide such service to businesses and people soon.