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Updated 20 Jul 2018

2 Growing additive manufacturing trends you need to know

Embracing these 3D trends in your manufacturing business could result in cost-effective, competitive innovation – which is essential to keeping production lines pumping in a digital age.

Nicole Crampton, 12 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print

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Additive manufacturing technology has been slow in taking off in the greater manufacturing industry, but that started to change last year with the rise of additive metal manufacturing.

“In many cases, industrial companies are using 3D printing for rapid prototyping before starting production using conventional methods. This technology opens up a wide range of new application areas. Worldwide, new manufacturing companies are popping up, doing things which couldn’t be done before.” Additive manufacturing can even automate the dangerous sections of your production line; so, can you really afford not to take advantage of it?

Related: How to start a 3D printing business


The growth in the additive manufacturing industry is rapid and substantial, as more companies develop production equipment, materials become available and end-user industries adopt the technology. “The global value of the industry is currently estimated to reach over USD10 billion by 2021,” says the2017 Wohlers Report.

Here are two trends that are growing in popularity when it comes to additive manufacturing:

1. Create flexibility in materials

Metal printing uptake saw an increase in 2016 as businesses continue to innovate their technologies to allow for more flexibility in materials. For example, XJet is suspending tiny particles of metal into a liquid, instead of using lasers to melt metal powders. “This changes the material’s property, allowing for a much finer metal grain structure, and thus presents greater potential for printing multi-material metals,” says Duann Scott, an industrial designer at Shapeways.

“This is a completely different approach to metal 3D-printing and a potential boon for generative design because the nanoparticle-jetting process enables printing complex internal structures and supports.”

Another company, Inkbit is using the same technique with polymers. “Its inject-head printing system uses conductive inks with high resolution, good material properties, and full-colour polymer printing. This is paving the way for not only functional polymer parts but also renewed interest in high-value engineering and performance polymers,” adds Scott.

Ceramics is also becoming a bigger additive player, and will likely be the next wave of development for mold inserts and detailed components in machines.

2. Adoption of additive in tooling

3d -printing -heavy -machinery

In the manufacturing sector, adoption of any technology is determined by product lifecycle. For active addictive industries, namely automotive, aerospace, and heavy machinery, that product life can be three, 10 or even 20 years.

Related: Investing in 3D printing could future-proof your manufacturing business

“These industries won’t start by printing entire cars or aeroplanes, but they could start with an area like tooling. So for a car that will come out in three years (the first product lifecycle), two or three parts will be produced with additive. Then, when the second generation comes out in 10 years, one-third of the car will include additive parts — because the automaker will have proven additive technology and know how to use it effectively,” Scott explains.

This trend is already making waves in South Africa. “3D printing has transformed the Ahrlac programme,” reports Ahrlac programme manager Paul Potgieter Jnr. “3D printing suits aviation manufacturing very well. In general, aviation manufacturing is not very high volume, but the parts are very complex. In 3D printing, complex parts can be made in one go, instead of being composed of many smaller parts put together. It will transform aviation manufacturing.”

Potgieter continues: “We hope to add metal 3D-printed parts next year,” This strategy will include titanium parts and will form part of the engine cradle. “The ultimate plan is to print the engine cradle as one part.”


  • Innovate your technology to allow for more flexibility in materials, which could lead to innovation and industry-leading developments.
  • Adopt additive technology in tooling and components as a competitive and cost-effective strategy.
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Nicole Crampton

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