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3D Megatrends: How 3D Printing, Manufacturing, and Design Will Change

How megatrends and emerging technologies will shape 3D manufacturing and global trends as we face down a crisis.

It seems, in this time of global pandemic, the rapid and forced change will touch everything. Technology, in some instances, is accelerating as we attempt to adjust to what everyone calls “the new normal” and the world of 3D is no exception. What we are seeing are overarching trends and industry shifts because of COVID and market growth, and while that might not sound exciting- it will change your life in the near future. 

What Is A Megatrend?

Megatrends are major trends in the world, which are either social, economic or technological. Businesses hoping to be around ten or twenty years from now need to be looking at two things:

  • What trends are happening right now that impact their industry.
  • Where those trends have the potential to take their business. 

Edward Davis, the Strategy Director for the Digital Manufacturing & 3D Printing Ecosystems at HP, along with his team, have identified four critical megatrends happening right now. 

  1. Rapid Urbanization. Everybody is moving towards the cities. This is going to happen even if there is a small COVID-related slowdown. 
  2. Changing Demographics. The world is growing older. This pandemic may change the average age of the world for some period of time but generally speaking, the medical system permits that people will live longer and the themes below people living longer will be accelerated. The need for better medicine, accelerated diagnostics, local less expensive diagnostics and digital care is here. 
  3. Hyperconnectivity. We are all more connected with the world around us than we’ve ever been. COVID-forced remote work is pushing us towards hyperconnectivity. HP is a technology company so we do a lot of things remotely but now, there are so many other companies who have rationalized that they can do events and customer support remotely. You can do customer support remotely. You can do all these things remotely. The need for connectivity and software security  has become even more accelerated.
  4. Accelerated Innovation. There isn’t a time at which we have to accelerate our innovation than when we desperately need a vaccine. We need parts and materials and technology to support those needs.

So What Does This Have To Do With 3D Technology?

I also talked with Davis about the megatrend drivers and emerging technologies that are shaping 3D manufacturing global trends. HP is hyper focused right now on interpreting and evaluating megatrends to move their company and the whole 3D industry forward.

“Where 3D printing is worth mentioning is the use of new medical devices for local diagnostics. What may be not known in the world is that we also have a 2D printer that’s used to dispense microparticles for the investigation of pharmaceuticals or vaccines. The need for these things along with local supply chains has never been greater. This is going to become a turning point for 3D in the world.”

Edward Davis – HP, Strategy Director 

Reigniting the Hype 

There are two value propositions of 3D printing. One is time to market and the other is digital distribution. Both of these values are so needed right now, and so we are seeing the language change around the potential of 3D. Facemask designs can be put up as digital files and printed from anywhere in the world. Medical device parts can be iterated quickly, tested, and the availability accelerated due to quick manufacturing and time to market. When 3D design can get quick proof that your design works without having to invest as much time or money, the critical benefit is there.

Prediction: We’re going to be part of a hybrid supply chain model where you use injection molding for plastic when and where it makes sense. You use 3D printing in the same product when and where it makes sense. This will be proven out in the medical industry and then others will start to take note for their own industries.

Considering the Post-Pandemic World

We need to think about the skills people are going to need for the future, how processes and tools like 3D printing will be evolving our own operations, what different business models are possible due to digitization and automation. And we need to be asking ourselves, “Who will be buying our products? How will we use design and technology to meet their needs? Where could we be in 3-5 years?”

For us, it has always been a process of making it, testing it and finding out where the breaking point was. On a larger scale, these megatrends will drive the entire 3D print market beyond this- beyond prototyping and small scale production, to the final parts market. If we can start to capture part of the final manufacturing, that’s big business. 

Growing Together Has Never Been More Important

This sharing of information is to make sure that everybody understands the value propositions that we’re trying to drive awareness to. The value propositions of time to market and the value propositions of digital supply chains are the same and so are the megatrends globally. If we can get the world to start to acknowledge, then we all get some portion of this final part manufacturing market and we all grow together.