Earlier this week we presented the thesis from Credit Suisse that not only is 3-D printing not a flash in the pan, existing market research reports have actually understated its potential market. 3-D printing is exactly what it sounds like: making 3-D objects from a device that’s conceptually more like a printer than from a typical manufacturing process.
But we wanted to get a little bit more specific about where exactly this is going to happen.
So with the help of an excellent report from consulting firm CSC, we now present five industries that are already feeling the effects of 3-D printing’s imminent dominance — for better or worse.
The automotive industry was one of the earliest adapters of 3-D printing to produce parts.
But we could soon start seeing whole cars (or at least their bodies) printed. That’s the business model for Urbee (“urban electric”), a startup auto company that wants to make the greenest car on earth. Stratsys, one of Credit Suisse’s top stocks for investing in 3-D printing, just signed on as Urbee’s sponsor for digital printing.
A company called EOIR Technologies developed a way to mass produce camera gun sights for M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles using 3-D printing.
Accroding to CSC, that cut the cost of manufacturing the gear by 60%.
The Air Force is also in the initial stages of pumping out components of otherwise highly sensitive and expensive systems, like drones, in order to use them in training exercises.
Pick almost any simple soft-tissue organ — ears, fingers, even kidneys — and it’s already being printed on a 3-D machine. So are 90% of all hearing aids, as well as an increasing number of dental equipment and hip and knee replacements, according to Credit Suisse.
Boeing now uses 3-D printers to create 300 different parts for its products.
For instance, according to CSC, Boeing’s environmental control ducting (basically specialised tubes) used to have to be assembled from 20 small parts; now it’s pumped out as a single piece.
This reduces inventory and maintenace costs, and also lowers fuel costs since the part is lighter. Some aerospace manufacturers are also deploying on-site printers for certain parts, reducing shipping costs.
Brick and mortar retail
If some storefront retailers are on the brink, 3-D printing may push them over the edge.
Thanks to at-home printers — as well as places like UPS that have begun setting up printers at their stores — you may soon be able to print pretty much any relatively simple consumer good that would fit on your desktop.
We’ve previously discussed what some of those objects are.
CSC has a great, illustrative story of how at-home 3-D printing could accelerate the decline of storefronts:
“Recently, one of our researchers faced the prospect of a 14-hour flight holding an ebook reader, with no time to buy a reader stand before leaving for the flight. After a few minutes searching on Thingiverse.com [a site offering 3-D printing files], he was able to download a foldable stand design, print it in 45 minutes, and use it on the flight that night.”
Here’s what it looked like:
Again, Credit Suisse says 3-D printing could drive up to 30% of revenue growth for aerospace, automotive, health care, and consumer sectors.