3D printing lies at the bottom of service providers’ Industry 4.0 technology offerings; there are many challenges left unsolved if it’s going to surpass cool use case videos to be the production process of the future. Providers are showing signs of solving these challenges alongside their manufacturing partners, but manufacturing execs shouldn’t go in with guns blazing before guaranteeing rapid innovation in the short-term and concrete value in the long-term. Equally, they can’t be complacent and fail to have the capability and partner network ready-to-go when the technology booms—or they’ll be playing catchup, making expensive purchases, and signing one-sided contracts with vendors.
HFS’ Industry 4.0 Services Top 10 for 2019 asked leading providers to rate the maturity of their offerings across Industry 4.0’s core enabling technologies (see Exhibit 1). Unsurprisingly, predictive analytics and AI applications, big data, and IoT are the most mature segments. IoT provides real-time data flow, on top of which data analysis can derive insight and with that, value. While aspects of robotics and small-batch manufacturing are still emerging, they’ve been around for decades and are moving along the maturity scale; we cannot say the same of 3D printing.