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Stratasys Survey: 3D Printing Use Expands

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

Use of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is expanding, with users looking to do more metal printing, Stratasys Direct Manufacturing said, citing a survey of users of the technology.

“As more metal AM technologies emerge onto the scene, the diversity of metal alloys has increased significantly,” Stratasys Direct said in a report prepared with SME Media.

“Still, there’s a hunger for more options; several of our respondents called out tungsten, 6000 & 7000 series aluminum, additional stainless steel options and beryllium.”

Almost all, 98 percent, of respondents said they expect to keep using 3D printing. Of that group, 75 percent said they expect to increase use of 3D printing in 2020 compared with 2019.

The survey was administered by Stratasys Direct and SME Media. There were 686 respondents who answered 12 questions online from Sept 24 to Oct. 31. It was a follow-up to a similar survey conducted in 2015.

In the 2015 survey, 18 percent of respondents expected manufacturing aids to be a growing application for 3D printing. In the new survey, that was up to 22 percent, with 33 percent saying it would be the largest area of growth in the next 10 years.

“At Stratasys Direct we’ve seen this reflected in the increase in demand for jigs and fixtures among transportation, consumer products and aerospace customers,” according to the report.

The report also said using 3D printing for prototypes “is here to stay as a major application.”

Advancement “of technologies and materials have also opened up more opportunities for robust functional prototypes,” according to the report. “3D printed parts are being put to the test underwater, in wind tunnels, on prototype vehicles, in high-temp, high impact space test environments.”

Among other highlights in the report

--The two most popular types of 3D printing technology were material jetting and photopolymerization, each of which was used by 25 percent of respondents.

--One-third of respondents said more complex design was the most significant benefit of using 3D printing. Another 26 percent cited speed and another 10 percent cited freedom for customizing parts.

--One-quarter of respondents said equipment costs is the top challenge for companies utilizing additive manufacturing. Another 16 percent each cited limited materials and manufacturing costs.

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