By DE Editors
According to the Wohlers Report 2007 from Wohlers Associates (Fort Collins, CO), additive fabrication (AF) has developed into three basic categories: 3D printing for product design and concept modeling; mid-range systems for fit and function applications and master patterns; and high-end systems for the rapid manufacture of custom and short-run production parts.
As these categories and "sub-industries" develop, the machines and their manufacturers will become much more specialized, the release states.
Excerpts from the 220-page global study that focuses on the advances in additive fabrication worldwide, further state that the market for 3D printing will continue to expand as prices are forced downward and part quality improves. Many models and prototype parts that are now being outsourced and produced on expensive additive systems will be built on relatively inexpensive machines. Wohlers expects this practice will expand in the future as demand grows for quick, low-cost design and modeling aids.
The use of AF for rigorous prototyping and testing will help preserve mainstream rapid prototyping as a viable option, the report claims. Improvements in materials with one or more properties that simulate production materials will maintain the appeal of mid-range systems. However, as 3D printers gain ground in both accuracy and material selection, they will take some of the market away from these systems. In response, mid-range systems will be increasingly focused on rapid manufacturing markets.
The report states that the next frontier is to apply the technology to the actual manufacture of end-use parts.
For complete details, go to Wohlers Associates.
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.