Is 3D Printing the Future?

All over the media we are reading about how 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry completely. Is this fact a guarantee? The article “The Limits of 3D Printing” (https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-limits-of-3d-printing) give a converse view to this new technology. Per the article, “…the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today”. Because of this assumption, the author proposes that we “…look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes”. Building off of this statement, the article also addresses the theory that with 3D printing, global supply chains will become a thing of the past by stating that “this vision does not stack up to economic reality”. One of the widely accepted benefits of 3D printing is that product customization is much easier. Despite this fact, the article states that “… 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization”. Due to this fact, “… when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive”. How much of these ideas are fact? Is 3D printing the future, or just a complement we will utilize for customization? For now, only time will tell.

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