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The Rise of Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing)

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is transforming the printing industry. From prototyping for consumer goods to creating car parts and even artificial organs, 3D printing is playing an ever-increasing role in the product design and production cycle.

But is 3D printing right for you and your business? There are three important factors companies need to consider when assessing the value of 3D printing to their business. First of all, will your company’s products be tangibly improved by 3D printing? Secondly, will it help to optimise the supply chain? And finally, how will implementing additive manufacturing affect the overall enterprise?

Additive manufacturing enhances the design-to-print process, providing a limitless platform for customisation and creating designs of greater complexity. Its production potential is boundless.

Take GE Aviation, for example. The company’s transition to additive manufacturing has allowed it to reduce its production cost of certain fuel nozzles by 75%, according to the Harvard Business Review. GE says 3D printing allows it to now produce a fuel nozzle, which was previously assembled using 20 separate parts, as one piece.

With adoption comes competitive advantage and many industries are proving to favour early adopters over companies that haven’t embraced the technology. The hearing aid industry in the United States is one extreme example of this. Over a period of about 16 months, the hearing aid industry moved its production to 100% additive manufacturing. Companies that followed suit are continuing to thrive and compete in the market. In contrast, not one of the companies that stuck to traditional production methods stayed afloat, unable to survive in an industry that had left them behind.

3D printing also offers great environmental benefits, something that is central to the Key Digital corporate ethos. The all-in-one production capability of 3D printing reduces distribution emissions, as it reduces the need for the shipping of various parts to the production site. In fact, additive manufacturing eliminates the need for one single production site completely; anywhere that has a 3D printer becomes a production site.

In summary, to stay competitive in a fast-changing manufacturing world, businesses must consider 3D printing or risk being left behind. It is the company that dares to step into the future that will procure the ultimate benefits.