3D printing poised to revolutionize manufacturing in the US
3D printing is not a new technology. However, it is also not quite in the mainstream yet. This is likely to change soon, as USA Today recently reported that 3D printing is poised to have a major impact on the U.S. manufacturing industry.
A growing technique
Terry Wohlers, president of consulting firm Wohlers Associates, estimates that part manufacturing constituted one-fourth of the $1.7 billion in sales within the 3D printing market last year. This figure is approximately twice the sales total of 2007. By 2019, the market will likely reach $6.9 billion in revenue.
Notably, part manufacturing will increase significantly, accounting for 80 percent of the total industry, according to Wohlers.
USA Today pointed out that 3D printing-based manufacturing offers numerous benefits over traditional methods. Whereas an older factory requires hundreds or thousands of workers to handle a variety of potentially dangerous machines, a 3D printing-based factory needs only a few employees to supervise its machines, making relatively minor adjustments throughout the day.
According to Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the cost savings represented by 3D printing may help American companies compete with Chinese manufacturers that rely on cheaper labor to gain an advantage.
Both Paul and Wohlers noted that while 3D printing may reduce the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs in the short term, it's likely that the industry will ultimately experience an increase in positions as more factories are established and relocated throughout the United States.
The U.S. government recently took steps to encourage the development of 3D printing-based manufacturing in the country. In March, President Obama announced plans to develop a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, beginning with a pilot institute. This initial institute is set to receive $50 million in federal funding, and the National Network will ultimately receive $1 billion to support its endeavors.