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What is 3D printing?
3D printing has received a lot of media attention over recent years, billed as the technology to bring about a third industrial revolution. 3D printing encompasses a variety of different manufacturing processes, broadly grouped into seven categories. The processes are all primarily additive, with materials are deposited only where needed, as opposed to traditional subtractive processes, like machining. This results in significantly less materials' wastage, which keeps costs and environmental impact down. Each 3D printing technology is suitable for use with a different range of materials (plastics, metals, ceramics, inks, biological materials...). The total 3D printing materials market reached $976M in 2014, and the range of materials requirements is constantly developing.
Some 3D printing technologies were invented in the early 80s, but they remained a niche technology used only for rapid production of prototypes for form and fit testing, hence the synonym "Rapid Prototyping". After the expiration of a key patent in 2009, the "Maker Movement" emerged with many start-ups offering cheap hobbyist 3D printers. A media frenzy in 2012 thrust 3D printing into the limelight and major players reported dramatic growth in sales of consumer-level printers, up to a $1.2B market for printer sales in 2014.
Many end-users are transitioning towards the manufacture of final products, deserving the term "Additive Manufacturing". With 3D printing, designs are not constrained by manufacturing limitations and design complexity does not add cost. This enables the economic production of lighter components, critical to the aerospace and automotive industries. Applications are also emerging in the medical and dental fields, because there is no added cost for each object produced to be tailored to the individual, known as mass customisation. 3D printing of insulators and conductors within an object is allowing structural electronics. However, as the industry grows there are problems with scale-up, reliability, intellectual property rights, and quality assurance, that all need to be addressed.3D Printing USA will bring together speakers to discuss:
- Insights gained from using the technology in a variety of industries
- All of the commercially-significant existing technologies and promising emerging technologies in depth
- The variety of materials available and spaces for development
- Both the current and future markets for 3D printing
- The market structure and a variety of business models