It’s 2019! The last days of a year and the first days of the next one are like a gap in time, between past and future, filled with anticipation, speculation, and mystery: what does the future hold? What are we looking forward to? Here are trends that LEO Lane’s management team expect in the coming year – a year that promises to be at least as exciting as 2018 was.
#1 Shifting the Spotlight to Software
LEO Lanes VP R&D Shmuel Korenblit predicts: “A growing number of AM companies realize that communicating through the digital thread and working with the digital twin is essential for enabling their AM strategy. In 2019, providing advanced software capabilities will become mandatory to the AM vendors in order to allow their customers to continue to the next level of AM implementation. This will lead to enhanced automation in the AM world”.
In the latter part of 2018 the importance of software was recognized as a facilitator of the industrial use of additive manufacturing. Whether it’s design simulation, manufacturing automation, supply chain flow or distribution – software is key to bringing the technology to its full potential. According to Materialise: “3D printing started three decades ago as a rapid-prototyping technology, evolved into a customization technology, and now is being adopted for serial manufacturing. As industries work on integrating 3D printing into their production mix, their challenges are less about technology and more about economics. The goal is to reduce costs and to increase efficiency.” Both goals can be addressed with software solutions as it streamlines the process across all disciplines. Forbes listed increased automation in Top Tech Trends in 2019 quoting Jon Bradshaw CTO of Calendar: “We are going to get more tools and apps that do the work for consumers and business owners, automating lives in many ways so more mindless, time-consuming tasks can be passed off”, Bradshaw focuses on automation on the consumer level but this applies even more so in a manufacturing setting. The extent to which production will be automated might not be visible to the consumer but it will trickle down to affect the consumer in ways such as price reduction, availability, and customization (below is an example of how AMFG is used by Makelab).
#2 Logistics Companies Moving Towards AM
Our VP Sales has a different prediction for 2019 which focuses on the integration of AM in terms of the supply chain: “We anticipate that in 2019 companies will further integrate AM into their logistics and supply chain flows in order to increase their operational efficiencies. AM encompasses great opportunities and in order to succeed an organization will need to apply best practices and work with solution and service providers that can address the entire supply chain”.
Additive manufacturing and the digital supply chain go hand in hand, they support and enhance each other as industrial solutions. We expect to see this come into play even more in 2019 and we are not alone (below the Additive Manufacturing digital supply chain – infographic by LEO Lane). In Freight 2025 Forecasting the Future, Alan Amling, VP of UPS Ventures, talks about on-demand additive manufacturing as a logistics solution: “At this point you may be thinking, ‘Is this the end of the supply chain industry?’ Absolutely not. This actually may be the beginning of a golden age for supply chain. Think of additive manufacturing as another tool in the toolbox to improve supply-chain efficiency. Much thought is being given to how this will bring production – and likely jobs – closer to demand centers. Dusty old warehouses will be reinvigorated and reimagined as thriving hubs for smaller batches of needed products.”
#3 Certification Leads to Application
In her prediction, LEO Lane Co-Founder and VP Business Lee-Bath Nelson addresses the issue of certification: “The larger the set of different parts that are produced in Additive Manufacturing the more important certification becomes, whether internal to the company or by an external body. We believe certification will make significant inroads in AM in 2019, on its way to becoming a routine part of corporate-grade Additive Manufacturing”.
As AM is used for more corporate grade manufacturing processes, the awareness towards certification increases and vice-versa, increased certification processes (alongside locking in the settings with LEO files) will lead to even more applications and increased usage. A virtuous cycle. Aerospace is already on the “certification path” with parts approved for flight by FAA and EASA (above additively manufactured metal bracket for the GEnx engine approved by the FAA) as well as facilities and processes (up top EBM 3D printing in action at CalRAM facility which received Aerospace Standard certification). Other regulated industries such as the medical one, are also in the very early stages of certification for parts such as implants, and surgical guides. However, certification is not limited to regulated industries. Companies in the automotive industry have been certifying their parts themselves for years – both for parts they produce and for those produced by their part suppliers. This mechanism will have to extend to AM and Dr. Nelson is predicting this will start to happen in 2019. (below EOS industrial 3D printing flight certified components for a Bell helicopter).
#4 A Growing Commitment to Geo-Economic and Social Values
Tessa Blokland, Co-Founder, and Design Industry Expert at LEO Lane predicts: “3D printing is evolving into a resourceful and sustainable method of manufacturing, taking into account current geo-economic and social values. With raw materials becoming more and more scarce designers will experiment with new materials for 3D printing as well as think of how to recycle and re-use materials for 3D printing in a thoughtful manner”.
In 2019 people will hold companies to higher standards says Trend Watching’s article on trends in 2019, this includes responsible manufacturing. A combination of new materials, recycled materials and the waste reduction inherent in additive manufacturing can lead to a more conscientious and effective manufacturing process. As IDC predicts, “by 2021, 40% of the top 2,000 manufacturers will utilize 3D printing combined with intelligent machine tools to optimize material usage, thus reducing waste by at least 25%” (above Beer Holthuis Design Academy Eindhoven graduate designs 3D printer for recycled paper).
#5 A Growing Commitment To Data Security
Moshe Molcho, LEO Lane’s Co-Founder, and CEO always remembers that the greatest adopters of Additive Manufacturing are Fortune 500 companies with corporate-grade policies and procedures and a concerned executive suite. Mr. Molcho predicts: “As companies are moving to use Additive Manufacturing, securing their most important digital assets, as well as obtaining control over the manufacturing quality and quantity of their products, is a CEO level concern. I see 2019 as an accelerated version of 2018 in which companies will be using corporate grade (secure and automated) Additive Manufacturing for a bigger part of their portfolio, benefiting from both cost savings and new top-line growth by coming up with business models not possible before”.
The commitment to data security is one of the Top Tech Trends on Forbes’ list for 2019. IDC also predicts widespread adoption of IP protection and believes that even blockchain will have some 3D printer adoption by 2024. While on a personal level people are becoming aware of who holds their data (e.g., Facebook data scandal of 2018), in the manufacturing realm data security solutions such as LEO Lane means safeguarding your brand, your reputation and the quality and quantity of products.
We see 2019 as an extension and acceleration of seeds sown in 2018, taking issues to the next level. The additive manufacturing ecosystem is well on its way to widespread industrial adoption and here’s to hoping that this year will even exceed our expectations and predictions. Happy New Year!