Spiegel.de, one of the biggest newspaper in Germany, published an article "Technology May Bring New Industrial Revolution" explaining the principle of 3D printing technology, its widespread applications and unlimited potential. "Three-dimensional printing as currently practiced is a long, slow process. " but,
Companies will no longer be tied to the economies of scale that make mass production necessary for reducing costs. Even small production batches can be profitable.
More innovative products can be brought onto the market, since this method makes it easy to try out new ideas cheaply.
Changing a product's design no longer means the entire assembly line must be reworked as well. This shortens product cycles considerably and makes it possible to introduce improvements more quickly.
What role does Germany play in this 3D printing revolution?
Given the potentially vast global impact of this new technology, it's surprising that so far only around two dozen companies dominate the market. Along with US giants 3-D Systems and Stratasys, about 10 German companies provide this technology, some of them market leaders in their respective segments, for example Eos and Concept Laser, both in the southern state of Bavaria.
Some of these German 3-D printing specialists are growing at a rate that has some industry experts hoping this nascent digital industrial age will finally see the emergence of new innovation drivers "made in Germany." German companies are seen as leaders, especially when it comes to 3-D printing of metals.
German company EOS is one of the leaders in such developments. This Bavarian high-tech company specializes in 3-D printers for industrial use, and these printers can cost anywhere from €150,000 to over €1 million. The 3D printing process Eos uses is known as laser sintering, it is used by large companies for quickly and cheaply developing prototypes and design studies, such as auto manufacturers, including those producing Formula 1 cars.
The company's sales have doubled over the last three years, reaching €105 million ($138 million). At the moment the total sales volume of this market remains fairly modest at $1.3 billion, but if the trend continues, it will multiply rapidly.
An patient-customized surgical device created by German company EOS. It may even someday be possible to sculpt human organs using the technology. | Image credit: Peter Schinzler/ DER SPIEGEL
However the new technology offers great opportunities for any manufacturer, but it also poses serious risks.
The 3-D printing process makes it easier for inventors to enter the market, but it makes things easier for copycats as well.
What will the implications be for a German mechanical engineering company when its clients in Mexico or Vietnam no longer need to import replacement parts from Stuttgart, but instead can acquire the digital 3-D blueprint and print their own parts? What will the implications be when a computer file is all that's needed to copy WMF silverware or Gucci sunglasses? One American company has already patented a copy protection mechanism for 3-D printing, and the mass market is likely to follow.
Read the full article here.
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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