Feb.4, 2014

The speedy evolution of 3D printing technology will be accompanied by five trends disruptive to the world economy – that's according to recent predictions by global management-consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

Last year, the firm included 3D printing as on its list of 12 disruptive technologies predicted to affect the world economy – suggesting an impact of up to $550 billion dollars a year by 2025. Now, in a recent article, McKinsey puts 3D printing center stage and suggests that senior executives should begin preparing for these five disruptive trends.

1. Faster product-development cycles

Since the first 3D printing machines became available, they have been used to make rapid prototypes, which are used in the design process and save time in product development. Now, as 3D printer prices fall, the technology is becoming available to more businesses. Prototypes made with 3D printers allow businesses to provide better customer service and get prototypes to clients quickly for fast, detailed feedback. McKinley's predicts that use of 3D printing – both in prototyping and in manufacturing temporary products helpful in the development process – will continue to grow and increase the speed of production.

2. New manufacturing

In 2011, only around 25 percent of the 3D printing market involved directly manufacturing end products. This segment of the market is growing the fastest – at an annual rate of 60 percent. Falling prices and improvements in 3D printing technology and materials mean that 3D printing may be a cost-effective way to manufacture specific products – particularly products involving complex tooling and relatively low volumes.

3. Changing sources of profit

The possibilities offered by 3D printing for customization, modularization, and the creation of specific parts for repair mean that customers and businesses will have to adjust. New production processes require a reevaluation of production models, and 3D printing may change the roles for consumers and providers alike.

4. New possibilities

3D printing technology offers ever-increasing design possibilities which many CEOs are not yet aware of and – as a result – are not currently using. CEOs who are already considering the implications of 3D printing technology in the future will have an advantage – as they will have a chance to develop early in-house technical expertise which can be put to work in an efficient manner.

5. New competitors

3D printing lowers tooling costs and makes it cheaper to begin manufacturing in low volumes. This means niche populations will be able to be targeted and catered to – possibly by new businesses specializing in bespoke or complex designs and quick delivery. Eventually, 3D printing may allow businesses in niche markets to become significant competitors. Meanwhile, the use of 3D printing by consumers adds a new dimension to current paradigms of business competition.

For more details on McKinsey's predictions, read the full report here.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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