The limits of 3D printing

Contrary to what some say, 3D printing is not going to revolutionize the manufacturing sector, rendering traditional factories obsolete. The simple fact of the matter is the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today. So instead of looking at it as a substitute for existing manufacturing, we should look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes.

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Additive manufacturing, or “3D printing” as it is commonly known, has understandably captured the popular imagination: New materials that can be “printed” are announced virtually every day, and the most recent generation of printers can even print several materials at the same time, opening up new opportunities. Exciting applications have already been demonstrated across all sectors — from aerospace and medical applications to biotechnology and food production.

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