3D Printing – Indirect Investments
Companies that do not manufacture 3D printers and whose main business is outside of this industry can still benefit indirectly from 3D technology. As? This is possible, for example, when companies can optimize processes thanks to 3D printing or open up new business areas. Here you can find out how this is possible and which industries indirectly earn money from the megatrend of 3D printing.
3D printing in the automotive industry
The automotive industry is one of the three main application areas of 3D printing. 3D printing technology has long been established in the automotive industry: Various prototypes come out of the 3D printer, special tools are printed and some spare parts are already being produced using various three-dimensional printing technologies. However, the potential is far from exhausted.
From the point of view of car manufacturers, 3D printing also seems interesting for new customer offers: With the help of the technology, customers have the opportunity to design certain components of their car individually, they then receive personalized vehicle parts from the 3D printer. Daimler has already gone one step further and integrated 3D printing into industrial production. Daimler uses 3D printers to produce spare parts for the truck division that are no longer produced as required. For example, thermostat covers for old Unimocs are printed, which saves high storage costs and space. However, it will probably be a few years before 3D printers start mass-producing cars.
3D printing in aeronautics
The aviation industry is already making use of the new 3D printing technology. For example, small parts made of plastic have been manufactured for passenger aircraft for a number of years – for example for the interior trim. In this industry, the added value is obvious: Less weight in the air means less kerosene. This could not only make flying cheaper, but perhaps also more environmentally friendly.
For astronauts, 3D printing will represent even greater added value in the future: If they need certain things (e.g. tools) on a space mission that were not planned before their start, they can use a 3D printer to produce them themselves in space . In order to benefit from the latest developments in 3D printing research, aviation companies work closely with printer manufacturers and also dig deep into the developer’s box themselves: In March 2018, NASA presented a new metal 3D printing process, which NASA engineers have developed.
3D printing in medicine
Another important field of application for three-dimensional printing technology is medicine. 3D printers can even save lives here. Prostheses and implants are already being produced with the help of 3D printing technology, but research is also being carried out into other possible uses. And 3D printing is already making work easier for doctors. To prepare for surgery, doctors print out 3D organs that resemble a patient’s organs to be operated on. An example: There is a lot of scar tissue on a patient’s heart, which complicates the planned surgery. The movements can be practiced in advance with the help of a heart that has been precisely reproduced using a 3D printer. Depending on the area of application, these “artificial organs” can now also be printed from organic cell tissue such as muscles.
3D printing is also a real asset for the manufacture of hearing aids. Individually fitted hearing aids can be printed for each ear. There are (almost) no limits to the ideas for using 3D printers.
3D printing in retail
3D printing also opens up new possibilities for manufacturers of consumer goods. Customers can get personalized garments or accessories much more easily, which should increase companies’ profits in the long run. Adidas and Reebok, for example, use this added value for themselves: Adidas produces sneaker soles with 3D printers, the colors of which can be individually selected. Reebok has produced a limited edition running shoe entirely using 3D technology – experts are already talking about a new era in shoe production.
3D printing in chemistry
The chemical industry is already benefiting from 3D printing technology and will continue to benefit from this technology in the future; albeit a little different than the auto industry, the aviation industry or retail. Nothing works without chemicals – not even with 3D printers, because chemical companies supply the raw materials for the finished printed product.
If sales in the area of 3D printers increase, then the demand for raw material for printing also increases. So if more and more companies in the automotive industry, aviation industry or other branches of industry use 3D technology, the sales of printers and raw materials will increase. It will also be profitable for chemical companies if at some point 3D printers become even more interesting for end users due to lower prices.