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Additive Survey Shows Less Tinkering, More Practical Use

Conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Manufacturing Institute, a 2015 survey of 120 manufacturing professionals provides plenty of evidence of additive manufacturing technology’s rapid maturation.

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The bosses on this machined turbine engine combustor case, showcased at an Okuma America open house last year, were produced on a laser deposition machine from RPM Innovations. The two companies foresee a big future in hybrid additive/subtractive cells. 

“While desktop printers and entrepreneurs may grab the headlines, manufacturers are also pushing 3D printing to its limits and are prime movers in ushering the technology to higher maturity levels.”

That’s a quote from a recent report on the adoption of additive manufacturing technology for industrial applications. Conducted by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) and The Manufacturing Institute, this 2015 survey of 120 U.S. manufacturing professionals is titled “3D Printing Comes of Age in U.S. Industrial Manufacturing,” and it offers plenty of evidence to support that view. Here are a few highlights:

  • Among the 71 percent (!) of manufacturers that are currently applying additive in some way (up slightly from the 67 percent reported in a 2014 PwC study), the trend is toward less experimentation and more actual application, whether for prototyping or production. 
  • The number of manufacturers that expect additive technology to be used for high-volume production in the next three to five years has grown from 38 percent to 52 percent since the last PwC study, while those expecting it to be confined to low-volume, specialized products slipped from 74 percent to 67 percent.
  • Although most agree that additive technology could disrupt the industry, they’re split on what exactly those disruptions might be. The most popular scenarios include supply chain restructuring, threats to intellectual property and changed relationships with customers.  

The full study offers more detail on all of these trends, and includes a list of questions to help manufacturers determine how best to take advantage of additive technology. It’s certainly worth a look.

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