2020 the year that we will all remember. This time last year we were emerging from 2019 looking forward to a progressive year of growth in our industry, with predictions of digitalisation and automation being the focus.
Those predictions came true in a way we had never anticipated and escalated due to the global pandemic where supply chain resilience was tested and established strategies like just in time manufacturing became severely stressed.
Fortunately, AMufacture was agile and fast enough to meet the challenge so we were able to step up and point our operations in the right direction.
So, what do we think will be happen in 2021? Here are AMufacture’s Top 5 Predictions.
Whilst a quick google search might prove otherwise, (endless articles proclaim the incredible use of additive manufacturing for rapid prototyping but for mass production you should use traditional production methods), we at AMufacture are already seeing the shift towards mass production.
Before we talk about that we must mention that 3D printing already delivers part of mass production via 3D printed moulds providing cheaper tooling than conventional processes. Businesses are benefiting with a lower cost option that also gives them the advantage of a cheaper way to be creative and innovative.
One of the pros of AM that outweighs traditional manufacturing processes is its ability to take a complex design and make it. Traditional methods are often impeded when it comes to creative geometries and complexities but with 3D printing you can design literally anything and send that model to your printer and simply press go.
We know the demand exists for mass production via 3D printing as we are asked all the time “can you provide a 3D printed solution at volume” and the answer is yes, we can! This is because in recent years technological advancements of 3D printing has reached an inflection point for materials, processes and hardware alongside higher speeds and accuracy as well delivering more favourable economics.
New and improved processes such as, Digital light processing (DLP), Fused deposition modelling (FDM), Selective laser sintering (SLS), Selective laser melting (SLM), Stereolithography (SLA)and electronic beam melting (EBM) give additive manufacturers a wealth of possibilities and materials to mass produce their parts and provide the ability to deliver the best solutions for clients. Combined with significantly faster 3D printers coming to market, meeting the demands of volume is improving all time.
Of course, you may still be limited to the size of your printers build plate when discussing with client’s which parts you can 3D print, but as you will see below, additive manufacturing has an answer…
3D printing has been adopted by manufacturers because of cost lowering, weight reducing and quicker production timescales. Fact. So why wouldn’t the large-scale industrial manufacturers do the same? We think they will and expect to see demand increase in 2021.
At AMufacture one of our key focuses will be taking our customers on a journey to give them the confidence to move away from longer production times (due to multiple parts needing to be assembled to make their final product) to a one print process. This often requires a shift in mindset, but we have the patience to take time to educate our clients even it means converting them one project at a time! The pull will be the reduced weight without reducing strength coupled with the precision and accuracy that Large Format 3D Printers come with as standard.
A raw part pulled from a 3D printer might not be the most aesthetically pleasing final product and it wouldn’t be sent straight to the shelves or the end user. But isn’t that the same for more traditional production methods? Yes!
Raw parts are nearly always anodised or coated as part of the production process before sent to the customer and the same can be said for 3D printed parts.
We think that in 2021 manufacturers mindsets will shift from “3D printed parts are useful as prototypes but aesthetically they don’t match up to traditional methods” to “I order my 3D Printed part and the finishing and coatings come as part of the package.”
Common polymer productions (SLS and MJF) don’t have many colour options and the quality of the coatings are limited. In 2020 after a year of development, we launched our proprietary technology AMuCoat. The preliminary feedback has been positive and initial results demonstrate a reduction in UV degradation of the actual part and more hydroscopic present.
Watch this space – in Q1 2021 we will be announcing the key partners that have already signed up with AMufacture to bring our AMuCoat technology to market.
To find out more about AMuCoat click here.
Consumers and Businesses have never communicated more than they have done since the digital age began. With that communication customers are demanding a tailored, personalised and bespoke experience. Trends show that consumers are leaning towards customised products and businesses are facing the challenge to deliver.
So how can 3D printing propel mass customisation? Cost. If you wanted to continue to use injection moulding to produce your product and your business model includes customisation, you would have to create an individual mould for every single bespoke part. Delivering that would be cost prohibitive and subsequently your pricing would be astronomical. Even if your brand enjoys low price sensitivity your customer would also experience long waiting times. It just doesn’t add up.
With 3D printing toolless technology you can send a customised design to a 3D printer in seconds and start printing.
An early adopter of mass customisation via 3D printing has been the healthcare and dental industries. Seeing the potential of this technology to aid wearers of certain health devices in a bespoke fit they are producing huge volumes of products like hearing aids and dental guards/braces.
In this example perhaps we are talking more about mass personalisation than customisation, but the technology advantages stay the same. What is interesting though is that mass customisation in some industries such as automotive has seen a decrease. Perhaps that is because custom parts for cars just aren’t that personal? Or they aren’t a large enough change to the original aesthetic?
We think it is also possible that some things just don’t need to be custom – when the original design and performance and of course the brand – is what is really important. What 3D Printing will be able to provide is optionality – if the client demands it, then it can be tailored to the individual in ways that were previously too costly or time consuming.
Put simply Shape Optimisation is software that takes a design and optimises it through the eye of CAD Designer to create a part that is the BEST version of itself. To enable this the CAD Designer removes material in the design manually to make the part more efficient.
Generative Design on the other hand uses a similar software but with no human involvement, the computer generates the BEST design for that part.
AMufacture has been offering these services since inception in 2018, but with increased activity in 2020, we think 2021 will see an acceleration in adoption.
Awareness of these services are key. Manufacturers may be sceptical about new ways to make a part and in this case design it, but once understood, the advantages outweigh any scepticism.
Whilst it is fair to say that the cost for this design service is more than the usual time of a CAD Designer; the gains are made with mid-high productions runs as reduced weight and less material cutting overall costs significantly.
AMufacture will be launching these services with a major industry partner in Q1 2021 – please stay tuned for this announcement!
If you are interested to learn more about Generative Design and Shape Optimisation head over to our blog from to find out more about these design services.
We will circle back in December 2021 to review these predictions, but until then check out our website for more information about how we simply deliver innovation for our clients www.amufacture.com