Gartner’s “Annual Predictions about the Future of 3D printing” looks at where the industry may head in 2017. Throughout the past decade, 3D printing (3DP) has had significant technical advancements and adoption within a broad array of industries. It is pressing into manufacturing operations that require quick-to-market builds, unique design requirements, and even low-volume production runs. (https://goo.gl/HmVxQ6)

Several developments that are precursors for future developments include:

  • Multiple autonomous robots for collaborative printing (Siemens’ Spider Robot)
  • Capabilities for leveraging automation to perform infinite build, robotic composite (3D Systems, Stratasys)
  • Advances with end-of-arm tooling on automation
  • Integrated inspection systems (Luxexcel, Automation & Robotics) and industry prototypes for large-scale automation and construction (ABB, Skansa)

Factory floor hybrids – machines that combine milling with 3DP – will attract more research and funding; 3DP systems will become more sophisticated; and many of the older, error-prone, pre-programmed automation efforts will be superseded by intelligent automation that can adapt and self-correct.

Additional analysis indicates that the need for customization will be the initial driver of 3DP of implantable medical devices at or near a healthcare facility. Because most biomedical device implants will benefit from higher levels of personalization/customization, 3DP will increasingly become a viable option.

While the speed with which medical devices can currently be made must be balanced against the technical and legal issues associated with 3DP-implantable medical devices, analysts believe this process will dramatically improve during the next three years.

Across a range of manufacturing verticals, personnel involved in activities such as new product development, manufacturing operations, and service are exploring ways to exploit 3DP. It can transform an organization’s business model by nurturing innovation, reducing the time to market for new and refined products, cutting capital investment expenditures, achieving cost reductions, and enhancing the product development process and customer service. www.gartner.com