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3D Printing: 3DP Systems Replacing Older Approaches to Automation

By Dick Weisinger

The 3D Printing market is growing rapidly.  A recent report by Gartner examines aerospace, medical devices, and consumer goods as three representative manufacturing segments where 3D printing is having a huge impact.  3D printing is revolutionizing both the processes and the techniques used to manufacture goods.

Gartner said that “we expect the automated 3DP systems to become more sophisticated. Many of those older, error-prone, preprogrammed automation efforts will be superseded by the new breed of intelligent automation that can adapt and self-correct. The process will monitor itself as it is being printed and either correct the process or reject the part when problems occur. The nature of 3DP and the continuous, high-inspection requirements make “smart automation” a better fit in the long-term for the manufacturing processes than older programmable robotic approaches.”

Some of 3D trends and forecasts identified in the Gartner report include:

  • The number of 3D print units sold in 2020 will be 15 times the number being sold today
  • 3D Printing revenue is expected to reach $21 billion by 2020
  • 71 percent of manufacturers have begun using 3D printing
  • 57 percent of companies use 3D printing for prototyping new product development
  • 55 percent of companies plan to increase spending on 3D printing services this year
  • 47 percent report higher ROI in 2017 compared to 2016

Mark Raskino, Gartner analyst, said that  “that [future] amounts to a leapfrog opportunity for a new generation of brave and creative business technology thinkers… CEOs lack a major new theory. The really big management ideas of the past like business process management (BPM), total quality management (TQM) and lean [management] are less helpful in an ephemeral product and services world where social networks, business model innovation, design thinking, brand values and customer experiences are at the center of value creation.’’


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