It’s 2020! We welcome the new year and the new decade. As promised, after looking back at 2019, we start the year with a look into the not-so-far future. What do we predict, expect and hope to see in the AM ecosystem in the coming year? Here are LEO Lane’s top 5 predicted trends for 2020.
#1 Rinse and Repeat
In AM production first-time-right is crucial, therefore in the AM world, the term repeatability encompasses consistency as well as reliability. Repeatability begins from the very first part, and it doesn’t matter if the part is manufactured once, or thousands of times, in one location or dozens. Lee-Bath Nelson, LEO Lane’s co-founder, and VP Business states: “repeatability and consistency will become prevalent as there is no industrial manufacturing without them”. We’ve seen awareness of the need growing stronger in 2019, ending with Formnext where repeatability resonated throughout the show. Idan Cataife, LEO Lane’s Director of Sales in Europe was in attendance and commented: “you could see both machines and software addressing repeatability in their own domain. The next step will be to see it throughout”. This year we believe we will see more solutions coming together through integration to enable repeatability and consistency throughout multiple secure workflows.
#2 Service is Everything, Everything as a Service
Future of Work, who specializes in guiding brands through the process of digital transformation, list XaaS (X as a Service) as one of their Top 10 Digital Transformation Trends for 2020. They predict “everything as a service will gain even more momentum in even the most hardware-driven industries/sectors of technology”. XaaS is already popular in the IT world and is starting to trickle down to manufacturing, specifically smart manufacturing. We predict that in 2020 there will be more XaaS solutions that address some of the (still) unmet needs of AM for industrial use. LEO Lane’s co-founder and CEO Moshe Molcho adds, “owning everything outright is a significant investment, especially when expensive hardware and major on-premise software packages are involved. XaaS allows for bite-sized consumption that grows as you grow – an easier way to start or ramp up in AM. Whether it’s SaaS solutions like LEO Lane, or pay as you use on a 3D printer, XaaS is a strong trend for the next year and even more so for the next decade”.
#3 Post-Processing, Workflow Automation, and More
The AM workflow is typically comprised of many steps from design to testing to pre-processing to manufacturing to post-processing. There are also components that participate along the entire workflow such as automation and a parallel security lane. Two aspects we predict will have major advancements this year are post-processing and automation. Post-processing methods for additive manufacturing will continue to be developed, and more importantly, they will be integrated into the process. Shmuel Korenblit, LEO Lane’s VP R&D, points out that the physical item in post-processing needs to be attributed to the digital item that was 3D printed. “There is still an unmet need to find technological ways to continue the digital thread once the item becomes physical in order to continue the tracking and audit trail on it seamlessly.”, he says, “Until such technologies are reliably and affordably available, automation can help”. This is just one reason why we think automation will advance rapidly in 2020. Industrial grade manufacturing relies on a seamless workflow – including automation and post-processing. “Automation will serve as the connector or meeting point among technologies and production phases”, he adds. Automation goes beyond the AM workflow of a part also into assembling several parts together. While AM can produce assemblies already assembled, it is at the moment a single material assembly. Paul Benning, Chief Technologist for HP 3D Printing & Digital Manufacturing, believes that this year we will begin to see automated multi-part assemblies combining parts from different machines and materials.
#4 Materials as Equal Partners
Materials are always important in the AM ecosystem, but what will be the role of material companies in 2020? Material companies will have a strong contribution to the AM ecosystem in 2020, developing specialty materials for the additive process and enabling new applications. This year we believe we will see more materials designed for specific uses and even specific applications. Tessa Blokland our co-founder and Design Industry Expert predicts, “developing materials for specific applications and designing applications for specific new materials will happen in parallel and help expand the selection of materials and applications available”. This means material companies will have a growing role in many aspects of the AM ecosystem, the first signs of this are already apparent with recent investments made by Evonik and the acquisition of Sculpteo by BASF (up top Sandvik‘s diamond composite material for 3D printing.)
#5 Tooling as a Driver
Last but not least our last prediction for 2020 pertains to additively manufactured tooling applications. AM-produced jigs and fixtures are an enabler of a smooth-running production line, enabling agility and adaptability. We believe that in 2020 the popularity of AM tooling will continue to grow beyond its current market share (about 5%) and these initial applications will also serve as a gateway to the adoption of AM for other applications. Tooling is designed and used by the same organization making the decision to use AM for them easier. “Here at LEO Lane, we believe that even though AM is a disruptive technology, adopting it doesn’t necessarily require disrupting current manufacturing. Tooling is an excellent example of the high-rewards vs minimal disruption that AM can bring, especially when it is thoughtfully and consistently applied”. says Mr. Molcho.
Bonus: 1 for the Decade
Finally, we want to give 1 prediction for the upcoming decade: by the end of the decade, there will be AM applications that we cannot fathom today and that would not be possible without AM. In another industry, for example, in 2008 (1 year before its founding), people couldn’t fathom Uber even though all the technologies enabling it were available. 10 years later (in 2018) peer-to-peer ride-sharing was a mainstay and no-brainer – how did we live without it? We couldn’t suggest what specific application will do this but we do think there will be more than 1. Dr. Nelson adds: “I always think of water bottles as something that will always be mass-manufactured as they are today, my daughter on the other hand recently mentioned she thought there will be significantly less mass-manufactured bottles because people will carry their own reusable customized bottle, as she already does”. A new application for AM? Time will tell.
Here’s to a great additive year! We are excited to see what the year will bring. What are your predictions for 2020? Tell us about them in the comments below or email us. For more insights and information follow us on LinkedIn or subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates.