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As we leave the first quarter of 2018 behind, another great opportunity has presented itself to business owners and hobbyists—in the manufacturing niche—to consider their 2018 manufacturing strategies and explore other ways to meet set targets.

And the best way to create new strategies is having a well-rounded understanding of the 3D printing community and its expectations for the future. Having an understanding of the trends in the 3D printing community will definitely help both commercial and domestic additive manufacturers take advantage of the opportunities these trends bring up.

So now is the time to say the year started quite good for most people into 3D printing and to ensure you end it on a high note, here are the 3D printing trends to keep your eyes on:

Automating the Additive Manufacturing Cycle

With the increased adoption of 3D printing in diverse niches comes the need to simplify every process associated with manufacturing with a 3D printer. As it currently stands, most companies that integrate 3D printing into their production schedule struggle with optimizing workflows due to the different tasks associated with pre and post-production.

The struggle companies face include the issue of collaboration among all involved parties—the 3D modelling artist, the 3D printing expert/technician, project manager and the owner of the project. Other issues include, managing the post-production process in such a way that it takes into consideration the needs of the employer/outsourcer in real-time.

For any manufacturing process to grow and achieve some level of dominance, the issue of collaboration and receiving feedback in real-time must be solved. And this is where automation and software apps that drive it comes into play as a means to streamlining additive manufacturing processes.

The RP platform is one such example that has been developed to help 3D printing organizations optimize workflows. Consequently, manufacturers of 3D printers are also looking at developing systems that can integrate automation software into devices.

As the months go by, expect to hear more about automation as industry players look to leverage on its ability to simplify the 3D printing process.

Metal 3D Printing makes a Statement

Throughout 2017, the 3D printing flirted with developing technologies for full metal printing using metallic materials with varying success. But with much fine-tuning and a better understanding of metal 3D printing, technologies such as the ‘Bound Metal Deposition (BMD) and Atomic Diffusion Manufacturing (ADM) have risen to the top of the pile and provided the 3D printing community with a more efficient and cost effective way to 3D print with metal.

The next frontier to be conquered is integrating these technologies into desktop 3D printers which will be sold at affordable prices to the public. One should do well to remember that the current popularity FDM/FFF 3D printers enjoy was spearheaded by the development of very affordable entry-level 3D printers that can be purchased by every homeowner.

Therefore, the popularity and wide-spread acceptance of metal 3D printing will depend on how quickly brands such as MakerBot, Ultimaker etc. can populate the market with affordable desktop options.

In 2018, it expected that the more visible 3D printing brands will follow the part of Markforged with the sole aim of making metal 3D printers available to the 3D printing hobbyists that keep on elevating the industry.

Material Variety is the Spice of Life

For quite a while now, the 3D printing community has been spoilt with a plethora of materials and filaments one could choose to 3D print from but the list of material types continues to grow. As you are reading this, successful attempts have been made to create printing materials from silicone and other materials that could revolutionize a couple of industries such as biotech, healthcare and the automotive industry

The driving force behind this variety, are the emerging players interested in making filaments/resins out of every material on the circle of the earth. The butterfly effect of the growing variety of materials is also expected to make multi-material 3D printers become more popular among 3D printing enthusiasts.

The coming months will definitely be an exciting time for 3d printing materials as more and more companies focus on developing the perfect materials for specific applications.

3D Printing Keeps Marketing itself

3d printing spacex

The last few years have witnessed the disruptive abilities of additive manufacturing and its success in marketing itself as a great option to other traditional manufacturing processes. Today, 3D printing is actively used in over 20 industrial niches where the production of physical and functional goods is required.

It is expected that 2018 will be no different and 3D printing will either disrupt or serve as a manufacturing aid for a couple of industries. Just imagine a 3D printer on a space exploration vessel? Could it be used to manufacture functional resources on-the-go thereby reducing the number of supply vessels sent on supportive missions?  

Elon Musk’s SpaceX already uses 3D printing in developing parts for its rockets therefore, the development of 3D printers that can work in special situations is not too far off from realization.

A Blockchain for the 3D printing Community

The Bitcoin mania that has continued to sweep the world off its feet has continued to affect every industry in different ways. Today, hundreds of industries have alternative coins designed for them and are leveraged by the growing demand and use of Blockchain technology.

The field of 3D printing is no exception and some attempts have been made to create a Blockchain option for the 3D printing community. The idea behind this is to create a decentralized collaboration platform where 3d printing enthusiast can share their works, and secure their creative efforts against theft.

One of the successful attempts resulted in 3D-TOKENS which serve as a Blockchain/altcoin for the 3D printing and computer-aided design community. 2018 is expected to see more efforts expended at integrating Blockchain technology with additive manufacturing.

With a projected valuation of $33 billion, the 3d printing industry already shows great promise and unprecedented growth. This promise is one that can be tapped into to disrupt the manufacturing world as we know it and advancements made in 2018 will definitely have a part to play.