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How 3D printing is changing the industrial sector

New 3D printing techniques are revolutionising the manufacturing industry. From spare parts for aircraft engines through to human organs, products that used to be highly complex can now be made at the push of a button.

Industrial manufacturers are aware of these opportunities too. Overall, 9 out of 10 industrial companies in Germany (89 percent) expect 3D printing to hold advantages for them. The biggest advantage seen by the companies in 3D printing is the possibility of manufacturing customised products, a benefit mentioned by two thirds of businesses (66 percent). Almost as many (63 percent) expect 3D printing first and foremost to provide greater flexibility in production overall.

The principle of manufacturing goods is being reversed: in the past, objects have primarily been shaped by removing material, for example by milling, grinding or turning a piece of metal or wood by hand or by machine. In 3D printing, by contrast, products are made from digital building plans by applying layer after layer of the material.

This additive procedure allows objects to be manufactured quickly and cost-effectively, even in small numbers. Other advantages seen by companies in this method are freedom of design (23 percent), less stockpiling (9 percent) and a reduction in weight (4 percent).

Even today, many companies are already using 3D printers to develop prototypes and increasingly also on the production line. But the potential for private households is also large. In a few years time, it could be normal to print out spare parts for household appliances, or even foods, using digital blueprints downloaded from the Internet.

Notes on methodology: These figures are based on a representative survey carried out by Bitkom Research on behalf of the digital industry association Bitkom, in which 559 industrial companies with 100 or more employees in Germany were interviewed.

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