3D Printing at the Crossroads

Additive manufacturing events revealed a state of the industry that is facing economic obstacles.

Additive manufacturing events revealed a state of the industry that is facing economic obstacles.

The digital engineering staff has been on the road a lot the past few months at industry events. We recently attended two different additive manufacturing shows targeted at two different audiences, and came away with some insights on the crossroads that the 3D printing industry now finds itself facing.


At the AMUG event in Chicago in March, editor Stephanie Skernivitz saw a small but bustling show where end users provided information on new applications, and the exhibiting vendors announced a number of new materials and software tools targeted at improving quality and print consistency.

This echoed a lot of the announcements we saw coming out of Formnext last year, with new software systems emerging to help improve design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) and quality management processes.

At the Additive Manufacturing Strategies event that I attended in New York in February, there was a slightly different mood. That show primarily draws industry executives and insiders, and keynote presentations by industry CEOs acknowledged the fairly glum economic news in the additive space.

Before and after the event, major companies announced financial results for 2023 that were down significantly.

This was due to a lot of different factors. High interest rates and economic uncertainty post-COVID have dried up a lot of venture capital. While there has been a lot of progress on certifying end use parts, the technology is still primarily used for prototyping. And many companies in the industry are struggling to make the shift from selling printers to selling solutions.

A number of things could help. First, many speakers acknowledged the need for industry consolidation (ironic, too, given that both Stratasys and Nano Dimension were on the stage and still in the midst of takeover battle). Companies in the space also need to focus more on reliable and interoperable software solutions.

Additive manufacturing companies also need to narrow their focus to applications that truly take advantage of the technology’s strengths: ones that involve high degrees of customization, opportunities for part consolidation, high costs, and relatively low production runs. Outside of dental, this remains the sweet spot for most 3D printing solutions.

This issue of Digital Engineering focuses on DfAM and other additive topics, including best practices, securing IP in distributed manufacturing environments, and how artificial intelligence (AI) can impact 3D printing.

We hope you enjoy the issue.

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About the Author

Brian Albright's avatar
Brian Albright

Brian Albright is the editorial director of Digital Engineering. Contact him at [email protected].

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