3D printing has been around since the 1980’s. Since then the powder metal industry and printer manufacturers have been surprising investors and exciting engineers with an ever-changing landscape - an industry GKN is excited to be a part of.
The metal and machine partnership
Powdered metal components are nothing new, but the way they are made increased quality and manufacturability of 3D printing. New production, quality, and market demand stimulated mass production and ease of access. In recent years, 3D printing services struggled to find large quantities of material. Today the popularity of powder metal in 3D printing is changing the game.
As materials production reached demand, 3D printers have evolved. New techniques, like those in Desktop Metal and MarkForge’s Metal X printers, are reducing cost. As both printers and materials become accessible to larger audiences, we can expect more changes, and not just in high-end markets.
Evolution of Metal Printing
As cost reduces, smaller companies will enter and diversify the market. We can gage how powder metal 3D printing may impact the market by looking at how the plastic printers were adopted.
Initially, small, low volume and complex parts benefited from 3D printing. Later, more creative solutions were found.
- Topographical optimization reduced material, weight and print time, but maintained strength
- Combining multiple parts into one effectively reduced assembly
- New revenue streams personalized product development
In today’s markets we might see things start out small in lower-end markets and grow as the technology matures. However, remember that 3D printing isn’t an incremental innovation, but a disruptive innovation. Disruptive technology often has long development periods that can increase costs. Once the technology matures, researcher have the knowledge and expertise to simplify the technology - reducing the cost and increasing accessibility for smaller companies.
As more companies have access to the technology, I see creative engineering solutions emerging. Metal 3D printing will continue to revolutionize the higher markets, but as the process evolves to a lower barrier of entry, it will disrupt more markets.
GKN's venture in 3D metal printing positions us as a leading, one-stop solutions provider. Our engineering mindset helps us set the pace for the creative future 3D printing has.
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