TEK: 3D printing will ‘eventually’ transform production, wide-scale use years away

Despite significant momentum for corporate investments in industrial three-dimensional (3D) printing and widespread optimism over future applications of the technology, 3D printing will not account for a significant share of manufacturing sector activity for many years, Moody’s Investors Service said in a new report.

The rating agency said that with a few exceptions, no immediate or significant credit effects is expected from the growth of 3D printing across most existing manufacturing industries and companies.

For 3D printing, several factors weigh on the overall utility of the technology in high-volume production, including the high cost of printers and specialized technicians compared with alternative technologies, the frequent need for additional machining after printing and the long amount of time needed to print each, said Moody’s Vice President Jonathan Siegel.

Moody’s said the case for replacing industrial manufacturing on a wider scale is not yet proven. Where scale is needed for high-production runs, the economics are better suited to using traditional processes to keep marginal costs down.

Advantageous use of the technology includes rapid prototyping, the production of unique and customised items, and the manufacturing of parts with some structural complexity.

In certain manufacturing subsectors, companies expanding their use of 3D printing technology will eventually experience credit positive profitability and market share improvements.

The eyewear and footwear industries are among the manufacturers expected to have the most significant near-term growth prospects for using 3D printing technology. Other industries expected to benefit from 3D printing technology include aerospace, medical devices, automotive and capital equipment.

Source: The Financial Mirror