Download: The Biggest AM Trends of 2023

See the new technologies, business trends, and other developments 2023 has in store for 3D printing.

Stop us if you’ve heard this already: 3D printing is the future.

Will we ever reach that predicted utopia of a desktop 3D printer in every home? Not anytime soon. However, we’re at the point where 3D printing is a strategic cornerstone for many companies.

Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, or whatever name you prefer, is poised for another big year in 2023. We wanted to dive a little deeper than the overall market growth. That’s why we looked at new technologies, changing business priorities, and what developments makers see for themselves to show you the biggest trends in additive manufacturing.

Varied Use Cases for MJF and SLS

It’s been nearly 40 years since Selective Laser Sintering was first patented, and the technology has proven remarkably flexible over the decades. The use cases are plentiful, as many industries use SLS as an affordable and reliable way scale production by printing complex and intricate parts.

While SLS is well-established, HP’s Multi Jet Fusion is the newer player in the game. It’s not that new, having been released back in 2016. However, MJF continues gaining steam, with makers adopting this technology for new projects.

How MJF works

The MJF printing process in action

In the whitepaper, we’ll look at why MJF is growing in popularity – and how come SLS will continue remaining extremely relevant.

Copper Usage in L-PBF Printing to Grow

Copper has always been a tricky material in additive manufacturing. The higher thermal conductivity of copper in infrared – one of the main benefits of the material – works against it during the Laser Powder Bed fusion (L-PBF) process.

However, recent technological developments have solved this problem. Thanks to improved lasers built to handle copper’s unique properties, it’s now possible to reliably make copper parts through LPBF.

What does this mean for companies and the additive manufacturing industry? The full benefits of L-PBF can be fully enjoyed when working with copper: Parts with complex geometries, fast lead times, and low upfront costs compared to traditional manufacturing.

Companies Look for New Supply Chains

Additive manufacturing technology constantly evolves with new materials, printers, and methods. With all these rapid changes, it’s hard for a company to master every aspect of additive manufacturing without having to make enormous investments in time, employee expertise, and capital expenditures.

That’s why companies across different industries are looking to focus on the additive manufacturing areas they’re best at while finding partners to complete the rest. Simplified supply chains make a lot of sense for companies needing small batch production for rapid prototyping, spare parts, tooling, jigs, and fixtures.

However, some industries are finding opportunities to bring additive manufacturing in-house. A 3D printer in every house seems impossible now, but how about a 3D printer in every dentist’s office? That’s much more likely with how decentralized polymer-based printing is becoming in the medical field.

In the whitepaper, we will also look at how some industries are bringing additive manufacturing in-house for certain use cases.

Improved Post-Processing Automation

As cutting-edge as many of the 3D printing technologies are and “digital manufacturing” being a popular buzzword, post processing is a crucial step that sometimes feels old school.

Many post-processing options are manual and labor intensive. These take time, money, and occasionally special skills to complete.

Automation is making a difference thanks to recently developed innovations. Once tedious processes, like depowdering and support removal, can be fully automated or at least partially automated. The same goes for chemical vapor smoothing.

What does this mean for additive manufacturing? Of course, there are cost and time savings.

Most importantly, automation increases support quality reliability and makes it easier to consistently reproduce identical parts. Looking at 2023 and beyond, these advances will help companies further adopt additive manufacturing.

Industries Plan Serial Production with Additive Manufacturing

There’s a divide between where industries are with additive manufacturing. This is especially evident when it comes to serial production.

Serial production is like mass production: many parts are continuously made with no production breaks. With serial production, however, production only stops after a batch of products are finished. Production can then restart when the next batch is needed. Additive manufacturing is ideal for serial production, as there are fast lead times and low costs to entry that make it easy to stop and restart production as needed.

A German survey conducted by Mission Additive found some significant gaps in where certain industries are – and where they hope to be – with additive manufacturing for serial production.

Overall, 30 percent of those surveyed said they’re already using additive manufacturing for serial production, 35 percent said they plan to use it, and 35 percent had no plans. What was most interesting was where each industry stood in its additive manufacturing journey.

Whether an industry plans to use additive manufacturing for serial production, most respondents see additive manufacturing as an essential technology for the next five years.

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