In 2017, we'll see more 3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) processes made for large-scale pieces and final production parts. Stratasys' Infinite Build and Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrators , for example, may become systems fully realized on manufacturers' shop floors, while HP's and other high-speed technologies will continue to be refined. We'll also see continuance of the trend toward faster printing as other large-scale methods become commercialized and more readily available. In large-scale and end-production parts, automotive, aerospace, and medical industries will lead the way, along with tooling & fixtures . Metals processes, including hybrid AM/CNC methods, will become increasingly important as they, too, become more fine-tuned.
More OEMs in many industries will be incorporating 3D-printed end-production parts into their products. This is happening not only in medical and aerospace, the long-time leaders in this trend, but also in automotive. For example, BMW, an early adopter of AM in cars, will expand the use of 3D printing even more in the future. To date, the carmaker has already incorporated more than 10,000 3D-printed parts in its Rolls-Royce Phantom, and has started using the technology for parts in the Rolls-Royce Dawn luxury car. BMW is an HP Multi-Jet Fusion ecosystem partner, which will be used for the first time in car manufacturing in BMW machines. The company's plans to expand the role of 3D printing in series manufacturing are based on expectations of much faster production speeds from this technology, as well as Carbon's CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) method.
Stratasys' fully automated Robotic Composite 3D Demonstrator, shown here, and its Infinite Build 3D Demonstrator may help to bring accurate, repeatable manufacturing of very large thermoplastic and composite parts onto the factory floor. Developed in response to automotive and aerospace industry needs, both are fully functioning, fully automated, manufacturing workcell demonstrators. They use existing and new FDM extrusion technologies to make enormous production parts at least 10 times faster than current FDM systems. (Source: Stratasys)
Meanwhile, Daimler is using selective laser sintering (SLS) for producing after-sale spare parts for its Mercedes-Benz Trucks. The company already uses 3D printing as the standard method for making high-quality plastic spare parts. Examples of those include covers, spacers, spring caps, air and cable ducts, clamps, mountings, and control elements.
Buy or Build Your Own AM Tech
Some OEMs are buying, building -- or both -- their own AM technologies, and this will continue in 2017. GE's 2016 high-profile acquisition of majority interest stakes in Concept Laser (75%) and Arcam (73.5%), both suppliers of high-quality metals AM technologies, was certainly the biggest total purchase to date.
Another recent acquisition was Siemens Power & Gas Division's purchase of 85% of Materials Solutions , a specialized service bureau using EOS' direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) technology to produce high-performance metal components. One of Materials Solutions' specialties is making turbomachinery parts, especially high-temperature ones for gas turbines where accuracy, surface finish, and high-quality materials are critical to the parts' performance in service. The company has also developed its own processes for several metals. Both OEMs have long histories