It seems that 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, may be crossing a threshold from a period of hype and experimentation into one of rapid deployment and maturation. The technology has long been touted as a potentially revolutionary development for manufacturers. That optimism quickly gave way to a chorus of skeptics and falling stock prices.
But 3D-printed parts and products are quickly making their way into end products — from a printed car to athletic shoes to a working NASA rocket engine. 3D printers are helping small companies prototype and manufacture at low costs with increasing quality while industrial 3D printers, once almost exclusively used for prototyping, are being rolled out on production lines. Filaments are getting stronger, resolutions higher, and a wider variety of materials can be printed with additive manufacturing, including metals.
So has 3D printing delivered on its promise of a manufacturing revolution?