Jabil Inc., a global manufacturing solutions provider, recently conducted and announced the results of its most recent global survey on 3D printing technology trends compiled from the opinions of additive manufacturing decision makers. This confirms the steady ascension of 3D printing technologies and additive materials into production environments.
Jabil has conducted this biennial survey since 2017 to chart the evolution of additive manufacturing while identifying the most promising opportunities and lingering challenges confronting decision makers. The most recent survey results show that 3D printing is still being used in manufacturing environments, despite ongoing challenges with the cost and availability of additive materials.
Global Survey on 3D Printing Technology Trends
Jabil commissioned SIS International Research to conduct the 3D Printing Technology Trends Survey, which included 200 additive manufacturing stakeholders from around the world. The questions were designed to provide a better understanding of 3D printing and additive manufacturing material decisions based on current opportunities, challenges, and industry developments. More than half of the top executives polled see additive manufacturing as a strategic opportunity to improve their businesses, and 40% see 3D printing as a viable alternative to designing and/or manufacturing products.
Currently, the vast majority of participants (97%) use 3D printing to create functional or end-use parts. Over the past year, nearly three-quarters of participants printed at least 10,000 3D-printed parts, and more than a third printed up to 100,000 parts. Overall, participants expect an increase in the use of 3D printing for production parts or goods in the next three to five years, despite being less optimistic about overall 3D printing industry growth than previous additive manufacturing survey participants.
“The results of our latest manufacturing survey confirm our experiences in helping customers leverage the speed and agility of 3D printing to transform different manufacturing steps — from prototyping to production. In particular, this survey underscores how increased adoption of additive manufacturing is driving demand for differentiated additive materials with improved physical properties to deliver greater functionality, increased sustainability, and economies of scale.”
– Luke Rodgers, Senior Director of R&D for additive manufacturing, Jabil
Other key findings include:
- Prototyping (97%), research and development (75%), and production parts (59%), are the top three applications for 3D printing.
- 3D printing use for bridge production increased from 23% in 2017 to 59% in 2023, while 3D printing jigs, fixtures, and tooling nearly doubled from 30% in 2017 to 58% in 2023.
- Prototyping is widely acknowledged by 95% of participants as having the greatest impact on product lifecycles, followed by product designs (52%), and small-scale production (27%).
- Since 2019, the benefits of additive manufacturing have remained consistent, with the ability to deliver parts faster, reduce production costs, respond to issues on production lines, and enable the production of personalised and customised goods.
Addressing Lingering Challenges in Additive Materials
Jabil’s survey participants have increasingly embraced the myriad benefits of additive manufacturing over the years, but concerns about material cost and availability have remained consistent. In fact, 79% of participants identified materials as the primary financial or cost burden to adopting 3D printing, up from 18% just two years prior. Furthermore, nine out of ten respondents believe that the most difficult challenge is a lack of desired materials.
Custom-engineered materials are used by two-thirds of this year’s participants as part of their overall additive manufacturing strategies. This discovery could be attributed to ongoing material shortages as well as increased demand for parts with superior performance characteristics. Increased use of engineered materials with value-added attributes reflects ongoing additive material innovations to improve the physical properties of end-use parts for greater utilisation at lower costs, as well as faster delivery and less waste.
Since 2019, the use of plastics/polymers has been consistently prevalent among survey respondents. Metal use, on the other hand, has increased significantly, from 39% in 2019 to 92% in this year’s survey. Under the right conditions, more than 96% prefer using metal materials, up from 63% in the 2019 survey.
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