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Expert Roundup: 20 Experts Share Their 3D Printing Predictions for 2020

The 3D printing industry has entered a new year, with many exciting opportunities looming on the horizon. 
 
To give you an idea of what to expect in the 3D printing industry in the year ahead, we’ve reached out to 20 3D printing industry experts. Below, they share their vision and expectations of how 3D printing will evolve in 2020. 
 

1. John Barnes, Founder of The Barnes Group Advisors:

 
‘I think, coming out of Formnext, the feeling I very much got was that the “tire kicking” in AM for the early movers is closing, and there was a lot of discussion of how to make money at AM.  To me, this is a great discussion and while it has always been there, it is now forming as a mature discussion. It will begin to tease out what people mean by DfAM, Qualification and Certification, etc.  These terms are broadly thrown around, but we will see that they will really impact the bottom line for AM production. As an engineer, that is exciting to me. As TBGA, we love this discussion.’
 

2. Petar Stefanov, Founder and CTO of Spectroplast:

 
‘2020 is going to be an exciting year in additive manufacturing, due to the many high-value scan-to-print applications arising across various markets, combining novel materials, which are soft and compliant, with innovative software solutions for generative design, to improve the lives of people in need of this worldwide.’
 

3. Alessio Lorusso, Founder and CEO of Roboze

 
‘Metal replacement! Why should you use expensive metal parts production methods, like CNC, 3D printing, when you can achieve the same performance with composites and super plastics? In this, Roboze is leading the way, replacing metals, printing parts just-in-time and on-demand.’
 

4. Brian Alexander, AM Global Product and Application Manager at Solvay:

 
‘From the Solvay AM team perspective as materials suppliers, I would foresee the following trends for 2020:
 

  • More collaboration across the value chain, even with so-called competitors. The number of partnerships is increasing all the time, and the pressure on closed systems, such as EOS & Stratasys, to open up their systems, will lead to a greater choice of materials. 

 

  • Collaboration will be the key to enter highly regulated markets, such as Healthcare and Aerospace, where the cost of qualifying new materials is restrictive. We can see that this has been done for Ultem in Aerospace, but there are new materials such as PEKK entering the market and implantable materials for Healthcare still in the pipeline. 

 

  • Unfortunately, several commodity materials (PLA, ABS) suppliers in Europe are up for sale, meaning that they will either be acquired, or they need to move into the production of more specialist materials to survive; this will be for both powder and filament based processes.

 
There are many more possibilities and trends I could mention, but I will just stick to the materials side for now.’ 
 

5. Yves Hagedorn, Managing Director of Aconity3D:

 
‘For 2020, we see a further allocation of different applications towards the ever further extended different AM technologies. There are, for instance, applications which call for material densities of ~ 100 per cent and maximum mechanical properties, whereas others rely on increased surface finishes, whilst overall mechanical properties are of less importance. Altogether, we believe that the importance of providing flexible equipment for specific applications exploiting maximum cost efficiency is ever growing. This holds especially in a market where AM has matured towards a true production technology, facing competition to conventional manufacturing technologies.’
 

6. Nanci Hardwick, CEO of MELD Manufacturing: 

 
‘2020 will bring new accomplishments for additive manufacturing. One we’ve been working on, that I find especially exciting, is large scale components. 2020 will bring several demonstrations of how we make parts measured by metres instead of millimeters.  Another layer of innovation that MELD will contribute in 2020 is advancement in materials not previously possible in 3D printing.’
 

7. Jonathan Warbrick, Business Development Manager at Graphite Additive Manufacturing

 
‘2020 – bigger, faster and real-world manufacturing solutions for production parts. Trends – particularly excited about the advancements in Binder Jetting technology, metals and high-performance ceramic materials.’
 

8. AB Obi-Okoye, Communications Manager at Carbon:

 
‘That’s a great question – we believe that 2020 will be a year to witness even more of digital manufacturing’s positive social impact. While the dental sector has long embraced 3D printing, we feel that additive still holds huge opportunities for the healthcare sector, and we feel that our peers are looking to innovate in this space. For our part, we’re looking into reducing healthcare costs and supporting new approaches to treating diseases and improving patient outcomes. Overall, we look forward to seeing how those in this space continue to push themselves and use ground-breaking technology to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
 

9. Gregory Paulsen, Director of Application Engineering at Xometry

 
‘3D printing is not new, with nearly 35 years of history, but most of the focus over the decades has been on platforms and materials. What is catching up is the software needed to better predict, correct, and manage printed parts. Building “digital twins” using great software tools will play a huge role in decreasing risks when printing parts from prototype to production. I wrote a little bit about trends in 3D printing for 2020 and am most excited about the synergy between software and physical products.
 

10. Joseph Crabtree, CEO of Additive Manufacturing Technologies Ltd.

 
‘I believe 2020 will be another milestone year for 3D printing and additive manufacturing, with continued growth and evolution across many industry sectors. Fundamental to this will be increasing numbers of companies scaling up their 3D printing activities and transitioning to real manufacturing applications, with increased production volumes. The driver for this is investment in sustainable post-processing technologies that fully automate the workflow, once the parts come out of the 3D printer and eliminate the prohibitive costs of a labour-intensive manual workflow. This is not just a guess – we have seen it take hold first-hand in many global facilities throughout 2019 at AMT, and I predict 2020 will be the year that many more companies really get to grips with post-processing for additive manufacturing.’
 
DMLS 3D Printing applications
 

11. Avi Reichental, Founder, CEO and Chairman of XponentialWorks

 
‘My 2020 3D printing prediction is that production and functional digital materials will usher in the era of digital fabrication at scale. This will turn traditional manufacturing workflows on its head.’ 
 

12. Robert Heath, Additive Manufacturing Application Engineer at Eckhart:

 
‘For me, the biggest trend I see is pushing towards Design For Additive Manufacturing (DfAM). More and more people are realizing that AM is not a replacement for CNC and realizing that it complements it. AM allows designers and Engineers another level of design freedom regarding complexity and shape. I am seeing an increase in willingness to redesign parts for the AM process, as opposed to just trying to shove an existing design, made for traditional machining, through an AM process.’
 

13. Rush LaSelle Sr. Director, Digital Manufacturing at Jabil:

 
‘Having had the opportunity to meet with many of our customers and ecosystem partners in 2019, we are seeing a lot of energy in defining processes upstream and downstream of the actual print process, to more fully incorporate additive economically into production.  As an example, we saw a host of exciting announcements last year, at shows like Rapid and Formnext, around large materials companies either entering, or expanding, their offering in the additive space, which has helped to reduce a key cost driver.
 
‘This year we saw a large influx of companies providing automated post-processing solutions. We are tremendously excited about the future of digital manufacturing, but seeing the industry solving more tactical challenges to help adopt the technology today is highly impactful. We’ve seen great progress in removing labour and increasing consistency in secondary processes.  
 
‘Likewise, partners in the software and simulation space are helping our designers and engineers to increase the efficiency of converting scans and designs to production-ready files within our manufacturing operations. Leveraging these types of advancements, we are accelerating the deployment of additive assets into our factories in 2020, with the expectation of helping our customers to achieve greater success in their increasingly fast- paced and dynamic markets.’
 

14. Dave Conover, Chief Technologist at ANSYS:

 
‘There are a couple of emerging trends that have caught our attention.
 
‘What is exciting to see is the gradual acceleration in the adoption of metal additive, particularly powder bed fusion. It has followed the “Gartner Hype Cycle” curve for new technologies pretty well – initial exuberance, trough of despair, and now the slope of enlightenment. Companies are starting to move their explorations out of the R&D centres and into the production environments. They have a much better understanding of where metal AM is applicable, how to design for it, how to qualify the processes and parts, and how to apply the tools enabling all of this. It’s taken time, and tremendous effort and education to get to this point, but the return on investment is worth it. We still have a long way to go, but the progress is measurable.
 
‘The second trend is the interest in the binder jetting process. While powder bed fusion is great for low-volume, high-value parts, like we see in aerospace and medical, it is not great for mass production; hence, the turn towards binder jetting, especially in the automotive and off-highway (e.g. construction vehicle) sectors.’
 

15. Zachary Murphree, VP of Technology Partnerships at VELO3D

 
‘[There will be] More consolidation on the contract manufacturer (i.e. service bureau) side, with production contracts driving growth. The focus will continue to move away from service bureaus that are focused only on 3D-printing, to one of successful conventional manufacturing CMs and turnkey parts.
 
‘Quality will continue to be a focus, with advances in quality monitoring and assurance.  This will be coupled with the strong growth in production demand vs. prototyping. Quality assurance for individual parts within a build will become more important as OEMs try to move away from 100 per cent inspection, and machine OEMs and third-parties will need to address these needs through their product roadmaps.
 
‘Geometric possibilities for parts will continue to expand, with printer capabilities continuing to be pushed further and further. This will also require the co-development of advanced design hardware, and a tight integration between these design tools and the print preparation and build-file generation software. Use of .stl file format will continue to decline, but without there being a single accepted replacement.
 
‘New systems and modalities will gain traction on a very application-specific basis, and will help to grow the total application space for metal AM. 
 
‘Novel, AM-specific materials will be deployed more widely and start to see demand growth.  There is a risk here, as each one requires quite a bit of development, and this could lead to a highly-fractured demand, until certain alloys win out in each family.’
 

16. Josh Martin, Co-Founder and CEO of Fortify

 
‘I believe that 2020 will bring a deeper integration between hardware OEMs and larger materials companies. This has already happened at some level, given that companies such as DSM and Henkel have recently leaned into 3DP. However, big materials companies from traditional industries are continuing to invest in 3D printing in order to bring new products to the market. Groups, such as Evonik, 3M, igus, and Sandvik, are bringing their materials portfolio into additive manufacturing. It is creating an exciting opportunity for OEMs to help enable scalable and reliable processing of these new material systems.
 
‘Industrial collaborations will become more common, as customers are demanding higher levels of integration between different hardware, software, and materials companies, in order to get product development over the finish line. Rather than sourcing a fully-integrated solution, cross-pollination between hardware, software, materials, and services will give customers access to more viable systems. A recent collaboration that illustrates this is the effort between nTopology, HRL, and Morf3D, which brings high-strength aluminium alloys to market.’ 
 

17. Jeff Mize, CEO of PostProcess Technologies:

 
‘Three trends will define additive in 2020. 1st: An accelerated need for scalable solutions. We’re seeing prototype volumes grow from thousands per year to hundreds of thousands per year, particularly in companies that rely on fast innovation to drive growth.  We are also seeing a keen interest by more companies considering additive manufacturing for low- volume production. Brute forcing post-printing with manual labour and traditional mechanical solutions that are not capable of connecting the end-to-end digital thread, are no longer viable options for these applications.  
 
‘2nd: Expanded materials offering and more complex geometries. This is also exciting for PostProcess, because a fully automated, software driven solution is required to achieve the needed throughput and consistency. 3rd: Sustainability will become a top priority of the leading companies in the additive market. Sustainability is a critical element in the shift towards scalable implementation.’ 
 

18. Joachim Zettler, CEO of APWORKS

 
‘The industry is evolving more and more and is moving to industrialisation. It’s no longer about R&D; it’s about making a business case with the technology.
 
‘As we see more customers becoming knowledgeable about AM, we strongly believe that the industry is moving towards serial production. In fact, that’s what we’re doing on a daily basis.
 
‘We’re seeing more and more applications coming up that just make sense from a business point of view. What will help this is the fact that the machines are improving year-on-year. The more efficient and productive the machines, the easier it is to realise a business case for your application.’
 

19. Wiener Mondesir, Co-Founder and CTO of Arevo:

 
‘When you look across the industry today, it’s really encouraging to see that everyone is talking about production parts. That’s the common theme.
 
‘Going forward, I expect to see the industry start to talk about quality and scalability as well. As you start making products, producing at scale and with greater repeatability will be the key focus for the industry.’
 

20. Keyvan Karimi, CEO of AMFG: 

 
‘2020 will see 3D printing continuing on its journey towards industrialisation. 
 
‘It’s exciting to see the industry focused on developing new applications for the technology, and this year will see more innovative use cases and strategic initiatives being announced that will help further the adoption of AM. 
 
‘We’ll also see more companies not only investing in the technology, but also actively looking to establish a scalable additive manufacturing workflow that can support a future increase in production volumes. This means that issues around quality assurance, repeatability and connectivity will only become more critical over the course of this year. 
 
‘In this regard, we’re excited about the growing importance of MES software in helping to address these issues. For example, AMFG’s partnerships with companies like EOS and Autodesk aim to make connectivity for AM a reality, and we’ll see further developments that will make MES – and software in general – a critical component of the entire AM workflow.’ 
 
More Expert Roundups:
 
10 Predictions on the Future of 3D Printing [Expert Roundup]
 
10 of the Biggest Challenges in Scaling Additive Manufacturing for Production [Expert Roundup]
 

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