Shapeways’ 3D Printing Survey Reveals Great Shift to Digital Manufacturing

3D printing now mainstream among 75% of mid-sized manufacturers polled, yet more flexibility needed, company says.

3D printing now mainstream among 75% of mid-sized manufacturers polled, yet more flexibility needed, company says.

Shapeways, a digital manufacturing platform driven by software, shares the results of a manufacturing stakeholder survey that reinforces the continued growth of 3D printing with three-quarters of those polled reporting extensive or exclusive use of additive manufacturing for volume production. This mainstream use of 3DP for production manufacturing is closely tied to a major shift in customer expectations, resulting in higher demands for quality, sustainability and personalization.

“Significant adoption of 3D printing for different production requirements is a strong indicator of increased digital manufacturing transformation,” says Miko Levy, chief revenue officer at Shapeways. “To reach its full potential, however, the industry needs to continue shifting more toward the use of digital, end-to-end manufacturing processes that enable product design innovations and speed time to market while reducing upfront and inventory costs.”

Shapeways commissioned third-party research firm, Dimensional Research, to conduct The State of 3D Printing survey in July 2021. Dimensional Research polled more than 300 qualified individuals from mid-sized manufacturers across the automotive, aerospace, robotics, medical device and industrial manufacturing sectors. According to those polled, the top five changes in customer expectations over the past three years include: higher demands for quality (53%), increased expectations for sustainable solutions (47%), more frequent design changes (45%), desire for personalization and high levels of customization (43%) and continual cost reductions (40%).

This latest 3DP survey reinforces ongoing efforts to transform the traditional manufacturing market, which is slow, manual and rigid. Thanks to advances in digital production technologies, software and materials, manufacturers of all sizes are positioned to meet growing demands for faster deliveries, lower costs and greater agility in adapting to changing customer needs and market dynamics.

For example, 95% of the survey respondents cited an increase in customer requests for high-mix, low-volume production runs, with more than half reporting a significant increase (25% to 100%) and 17% stating dramatic requests (doubled or more), respectively. Most of the survey respondents (72%) are more likely to outsource low-volume production runs to gain much-needed proof points before committing to specific machines or technologies.

COVID-19 Accelerated 3DP Investments

Of those polled, 87% concurred that major pandemic-related supply chain disruptions accelerated 3DP investments, while 63% strongly agreed that their organization is gaining confidence in 3DP at scale. Expected benefits from 3DP investments range from greater design flexibility (70%), faster speed to market (68%) and improved labor efficiency (64%) to increased asset use (57%) and reduced inventory costs (46%).

Most important, 84% of the survey respondents expect these investments to impact corporate profits over the next decade by increasing revenues or decreasing costs. About half of those participants (43%) anticipate a transformative impact of more than 20% annually while 41% predict a significant impact of 5% to 20% annually.

Bullish about 3DP’s Future 

Survey participants predicted positive momentum for the use of 3DP in manufacturing; 55% predict it will replace existing processes while 28% plan to use 3DP as another option in their manufacturing toolbox. Executives are even more bullish, with 68% of those polled agreeing that 3DP is the future of manufacturing.

Still, barriers to adoption persist, especially in managing the shared data repositories, applications and tools needed to streamline additive manufacturing processes. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed rely on more than five different applications to guide additive manufacturing processes with minimal data sharing or workflow integration. Shapeways’ purpose-built software and end-to-end manufacturing capabilities enable customers of all sizes to transform digital designs into physical products with speed and agility.

On April 28, 2021, Shapeways entered into a definitive agreement with Galileo Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company, related to a proposed business combination between Galileo and Shapeways. Upon the closing of the transaction, the combined company will be named Shapeways Holdings, Inc. and is expected to remain listed on the NYSE under the new ticker symbols “SHPW” and “SHPW.WS.”

On August 16, 2021, Galileo filed a registration statement on Form S-4/A with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that includes a preliminary joint proxy statement/consent solicitation/prospectus in connection with the proposed business combination, which is available on the SEC website.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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