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3D printing outgrows the prototyping stage

From being just a trend to everyday life commodity? As a VDMA survey shows, 3D printing is increasingly gaining acceptance as a complementary manufacturing technology in mechanical engineering. But the investments are still relatively low.

13 Jul. 2018
HMI-ID07-005ds_Berger_Heraeus
3D printing outgrows the prototyping stage (Chart: Berger & Heraeus)

Around 150 member companies of the VDMA took part in the survey . Although, according to the answers, prototyping remains the most widespread application . However, 3D printing components or additive manufacturing play an important role already for almost half of the companies. This includes the production of tools, series or spare parts, each with about 15%. Other companies plan to use 3D printing technology. Only 20% are not interested in it for the time being. Where the technology is already in use, it usually involves relatively small investments, says Rainer Gebhardt of the VDMA Additive Manufacturing Consortium . However, some companies have already used component volumes in the six-figure euro range.

In terms of the material used, plastic is in the lead with 47%, followed by metal (24%). Another 27% use both. The production is partly carried out by the manufacturer, partly by third parties. "In-house production using plastics is often used as an introduction to the topic," according to the VDMA. On the other hand, efficient service providers would rather enter into a collaboration for first series parts production. One does not exclude the other. Especially in the metal sector, many companies invest first in successful developments with third parties and then in their own production.

A glance back at 2016 reveals how quickly the change is taking place. Only 8% of respondents at that time answered that they used 3D printed products in a similar VDMA survey, the Handelsblatt reported . The reason for the growing popularity is that the components are lighter and more stable. In addition, they could be designed more individually and spare parts would no longer need to be stored in a warehouse.