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3D printing is believed to harbor great potential. However, it has so far been an expensive technique and remains a niche technology for many companies, states the new study. Unlike conventional mass production methods, 3D printing is “not yet cost-competitive”. New technologies , however, are giving reason for hope.

Roland Berger lists direct energy deposition (DED) as one such technology. This is a method whereby three-dimensional parts are produced by deposition welding with wire or powder. Other new technologies are material jetting (deposition of droplets of molten metal), material extrusion (joining metal powder with a binding agent), and binder jetting. Binder jetting repeatedly deposits a binding adhesive agent onto the powder bed to produce a component by building up the layers, explains the study. Many of these new methods are still in the development phase, but will gradually become increasingly relevant over the coming years. The consultants do not anticipate one single technology ousting all the rest; rather, they anticipate that different technologies will be used to address different needs.

German business newspaper ‘ Handelsblatt’ observes that the challenge on the path to mass production may lie elsewhere. The breakthrough will be difficult, because trade and industry are already having problems finding the skilled workers they need: “Mechanical engineers, physicists, electrical engineers, mechatronics engineers, and materials developers in particular are in demand.”