According to a recent survey of the Additive Manufacturing Association within VDMA, 3D-printed parts or additive manufacturing itself play a role with nearly half of all companies. Of the other half, many mechanical engineers are considering application possibilities. »While it’s relatively small investments in many cases, a few companies reach a six-digit euro amount, with the component volume used«, explains Rainer Gebhardt, manager of the Association.
What strikes the eye is that plastic as well as metal production are quickly gaining importance. Half of the companies surveyed use only plastic 3D print, a quarter do metal production only. All other companies surveyed use both raw materials. So far, prototyping is the most important, with 50 percent of companies naming it as their intended purpose for 3D printing. »The other half of the companies already have applications in the areas of series, tools, and spare parts«, says Gebhardt.
There is about as much 3D printing production through third parties as there is in-house use of additive manufacturing technologies. Often, the company’s own production in the plastic sector serves as an entry point to the topic. On the other side, offers from capable service providers are an opportunity to implement first serial parts. In the metal sector in particular, companies only begin their own manufacturing, which means high investments, after successful developments with third parties. »Additive manufacturing is developing into a permanent fixture in modern manufacturing technologies. The development towards more productive and process-reliable production systems as well as the growing range of materials is accelerating this trend«, says Christoph Hauck, chairman of the board of the Additive Manufacturing Association and managing director of the company toolcraft.