3D Printers: Future of Manufacturing

According to research firm Canalys, 3D printing could become a $16.2 billion industry by 2018. Here's why 3D printers are the future of manufacturing

Anil Chopra
New Update
3D printers

Digital technologies have disrupted many sectors, and now, it’s time for the same to happen to the manufacturing industry. The technology that’s likely to make it happen are 3D printers—devices that can print just about anything. According to a research firm, Canalys, 3D printing could become a $16.2 billion industry by 2018.


Today, 3D printers are available as desktop or industrial printers, and can either be imported or procured from a few local manufacturers. Large players have also started entering this space, which makes this space even more exciting, because it would increase the availability of 3D printers to a much wider audience, and would probably overcome the challenges associated with getting clearances for importing them.

Greater customization: Customers today are demanding greater customization in the products that they buy and are just not satisfied with the “made for everyone” approach. 3D printers could address this requirement because that’s what they’re actually meant to do—print custom designs faster.

Lower cost of supply chain and imports: The supply chain is a critical part of any manufacturing setup, where companies import raw material from suppliers. With 3D printers, some of the parts could be printed locally, eliminating the need for imports. In fact, according to PWC, due to 3D printers, 40% of air and shipping cargo market is under threat.


Lower inventory cost: A key cost for any manufacturing sector is maintaining an optimum balance of inventory. It’s the most challenging task for any manufacturing company because too much inventory blocks capital and too little can hit production schedules. Maintaining an inventory of spares is another challenge because you never know when you’ll need them, and yet you have to keep them handy. With 3D printing, some of this inventory can be reduced because you just need to keep blue-prints of the parts and print them only when required. This can reduce both the cost of inventory as well as the cost of spares to end customers.

Identify Genuine Parts from Duplicates: 3D printing technology can embed codes inside printed products, which can’t be traced because they’re inherent to the product. They can only be scanned with a special scanner. This can help the genuine parts industry prevent fake and duplicate products from impacting their market.

More versatile: 3D printers support a greater variety of materials, allowing you to print a wide range of products for many industries. Apparently, the aviation industry 3D prints many parts used in aircraft. There’s a lot of scope for 3D printing in the healthcare sector, where 3D printed prosthetic limbs are already a reality, and experiments are on to print live human tissues and other body parts.


It’s for everyone: 3D printers aren’t just for specialized industries like aviation. They can be used by anybody, including small companies and even professionals like designers and architects.

In a nutshell, 3D printers have come of age and you can expect many new products and launches in the coming financial year. This is the right time for the manufacturing sector to start doing their pilots.

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