Tools, spare parts and models already come from 3D printers in many German industrial companies. Already every third company (32 percent) uses this technology. In 2018, 28 percent still used 3D printing, compared to only 20 percent in 2016. This is the result of a representative survey of 555 industrial companies with more than 100 employees commissioned by the Bitkom digital association. "German industry has recognized the great potential of 3D printing technology," says Bitkom President Achim Berg. "Not only does this make companies more flexible in their production, they can also save costs, reduce the use of materials and conserve resources. By manufacturing spare parts directly on site, for example, long delivery routes can be dispensed with. This also makes a contribution to climate protection."
3D printing has long been regarded as a key technology for a large proportion of companies: 78 percent of the companies surveyed believe it is likely that 3D printing will profoundly change business models and value chains. This is 8 percentage points more than in 2018. Only 7 percent see no disruptive potential. "Although traditional manufacturing processes have not yet been completely replaced by 3D printing," says Berg, "it still has great potential to become the preferred production process in many areas.
42 percent of industrial companies that use 3D printing use this process to produce samples, moulds or tools. 35 percent produce spare parts in this way. 30 percent use it to create models. One of the most important advantages for companies is that 3D printing can be used to produce individualized products: 61 percent emphasize this possibility, compared to 53 percent in the previous year. Increased flexibility in production (55 percent) is also one of the economic opportunities offered by 3D printing (2018: 50 percent). A smaller, but steadily growing proportion points to lower costs: 16 percent believe that savings can be achieved through 3D printing - compared to 12 percent in the previous year.
"It is now important to keep Germany internationally competitive in additive manufacturing," warns Bitkom President Berg. "In particular, we must promote and support small and medium-sized enterprises in the introduction of 3D printing. Above all, however, it is important that digital know-how is taught at all levels of education and that 3D printing is quickly integrated into relevant training occupations.