Innovative uses of 3D printing are rapidly transforming healthcare and manufacturing. Assess the opportunities now so you are prepared for the inevitable market disruption.
For 20 years, 3D printing was primarily used for prototyping. Over the last 10 years, more and more uses of 3D printing have come to market, especially in healthcare and manufacturing. 3D-printed personalized medical devices—hearing aids, dental implants and braces, and prosthetic limbs—are more common than many people know. So, too, are the uses of 3D printing to produce not only prototypes and finished goods, but also the tools, jigs and fixtures that are then used to make something else.
Excerpted from Gartner’s annual predictions about the 3D printing industry, use the following predictions to guide your planning for the disruptive impacts of 3D printing on you and your organization:
Strategic Planning Assumption: By 2019, 10% of people in the developed world will be living with 3D-printed items that are on or in their bodies.
Assuming about 6 billion people live in the developed world, 10% is 600 million people—a large target for a still-early technology until one considers today’s growing uses plus the massive number of innovations and “third world” appeal.
Top growth categories include electronics, individualized wearable toys, jewelry and fashion, cosmetics/beauty aids, consumable foods, and, of course, all kinds of medical breakthroughs. Medical implants such as 3D-printed bones and tissues will lag the wearables due to the appropriately rigorous regulatory approvals that are required. The growth of 3D printing in the medical device industry (including hearing and dental aids) will drive use cases throughout the developed (and developing) world.
Strategic Planning Assumption: By 2019, 3D printing will be a critical tool in over 35% of surgical procedures requiring prosthetic and implant devices (including synthetic organs) placed inside and around the body.
3D printing is already having a positive impact on customizing prosthetics and implants for surgical and dental procedures and will become even more important in “building” replacement organs and tissues in the future. 3D modeling and printing is also being used to better visualize some complex brain, heart and other organ surgeries to determine space constraints, or to avoid interfering with certain cellular structures. The technology evolution in 3D printing speed, in printhead flexibility (especially multiple microscaling orifices), and most important, in materials (especially new alloys and biosynthetic hybrids) will further augment the growth in this segment.
Custom Cranio-Maxillofacial Implant
Photo source: Arcam
Strategic Planning Assumption: By 2019, technological and material innovation will result in 10% of counterfeit drugs and pharmaceuticals being produced with 3D printers.
As more robust legislation is passed to prevent or minimize the proliferation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in circulation, counterfeiters will turn to 3D printing as an opportunity for increasing technical sophistication and flexibility.
The technical competencies to make even a counterfeit drug are challenging. Nevertheless, as regulations and enforcement become more robust, counterfeiters will try to stay one step ahead by focusing on products that can replicate or mimic the chemical composition and quality of all components of a drug product and its associated packaging.
In the meantime, bona fide pharmaceutical manufacturers are investigating the use of 3D printers. Aprecia Pharmaceuticals announced last August that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its Spritam drug for the treatment of epilepsy, which Aprecia claims is the first 3D-printed medication approved by the FDA.
Strategic Planning Assumption: By 2019, 10% of all discrete manufacturers will be using 3D printers to produce parts for the products they sell or service.
There are more than 52,000 firms in North America, Europe and a few other individual countries that were classified as manufacturers with over 100 employees as of 2011. From that we can reasonably assume there are over 100,000 manufacturers with more than 100 employees in operation worldwide. The majority of these firms are the ones most likely to have assembly processes that benefit from 3D printing.
The Product Development Life Cycle: 3D Printing From Start to Finish
Photo sources: Stratasys, Optomec, Pete Basiliere
Manufacturing is being disrupted by 3D printing as companies shift their thinking from the concept of “design for manufacturing” to “manufacturing of the design.” Design for manufacturing often leads to a product that can be profitably produced in high volumes but which differs from what marketing — and the customer — actually wanted. The shift to employing 3D printing enables manufacturers to profitably manufacture the personalized design that the customer desires and values highly.
Strategic Planning Assumption: By 2019, 10% of out-of-production spare parts for cars, trucks, bicycles and motorcycles, in addition to military vehicles and drones, will be 3D-printed.
Although new replacement parts are widely available for some classic vehicles, they are long depleted for “orphaned” vehicles, antique vehicles, unpopular vehicles and odd configurations of classic vehicles. Many hobby cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles have remained incomplete for years for lack of a few key parts. The collectible market will result in opportunities for new companies to become involved or for established vehicle manufacturers to get started in the space.
In remote areas of the world, 3D-printing will be used to create a host of vehicle replacement parts, not just trim pieces. The purpose of those parts will be to keep the vehicle in service, rather than looking like new. Unfortunately, many parts that should not be made using 3D printing, such as brake parts, suspension parts, belts and even tires will be created anyway, often with disastrous results.
Active military vehicles present a different 3D printing challenge. Although most of those vehicles are very new compared with vintage and antique vehicles, they are typically used far away from repair facilities and parts supplies. A 3D printer with a library of CAD files for all critical components has become a life-saving tool in those situations.
Gartner’s 19-page report is available here: Predicts 2016: 3D Printing Disrupts Healthcare and Manufacturing. The report was researched and co-authored by Pete Basiliere, Jim Burton, Dale Kutnick, Vi Shaffer and Andrew Stevens
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