3D Printing: Evolution rather than revolution

In 2013, a speculation on the topic “Does 3D printing mean the end of the global supply chain?” was initiated in a blog written by Kristina Pelzel (German). Today, almost three years and a lot of 3D printing hype later, it is time for the current technical state-of-the-art to be analyzed and to evaluate the effects of this technology on our world. In this two-part blog series, the first part is focused on defining the current state of development. The second part will deliver an outlook based on this defined state.

Is 3D printing truly a revolution?

Answering the question above is not easy because terms like “3D printing”, “additive manufacturing” and “rapid prototyping” are often used synonymously, even though they describe different technologies, philosophies and concepts. Today, as in 2013, the degree of sophistication and market penetration of these technologies strongly depend on the way they are applied and the industry in which they are applied. However, one thing is certain: 3D printing is becoming an established, market-changing technology in more and more areas.

The 3D printing hype, which started in 2013 and – at least according to the media – lasted for about one year, left the impression that a new technology was taking over the market. This might have encouraged too high of expectations: for example, the impression that within a few months all manufacturing technologies would be replaced by 3D printing, and that everybody would be able to simply print their spare parts at home.

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