Besides improving product design and time-to-market speeds, 3D printing pushes sustainability awareness and makes previously expensive products more accessible.

For businesses that wish to harness the latest solutions for improved productivity and innovation, 3D printing continues to develop in its maturity and adoption within the region. Recent issues with the sustainability benefits of this technology have come to light, heating up business interest widely.

To gather insights on the potential of this important technology in the Asia Pacific region, DigiconAsia sought the views of Rob Mesaros, Global Head of 3D Printing Services, Alliances, & Asian markets at HP. Here are the five insights that he shared:

1. Expect full-color engineering-grade functional prototypes

It is an exciting time for 3D Printing in Asia Pacific where we are seeing increased adoption and receptivity to the technology. The region accounts for nearly half of the US$12 trillion global manufacturing industry and a big push to empower companies to accelerate their time to market and compete on the global stage by embracing 3D printing innovation.

Already, there are 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions that can produce engineering-grade functional prototype parts in full colour and black or white. We believe that the next step up is the introduction of automated assembly, where there will be access to parts production across both metals and plastics simultaneously. As automation increases, we expect to see increased demand for such an offering. 

2. Sustainable production will continue to be a business imperative

Sustainability is one of the biggest promises when it comes to revolutionising manufacturing and other industries with 3D printing. Specifically, it offers great potential for the circular economy by expanding product life and reducing material waste. It is also capable of lowering the time and cost needed to make finished parts, ultimately shortening supply chains and improving the sustainability of greenhouse gas emissions.

As industrial 3D production intersects with mainstream manufacturing, the positive impact on the planet could be immense as nearly one-third of carbon emissions are related to the production and distribution of goods. One way to bake sustainability into manufacturing is to partner with experts in the region who can directly advise and develop 3D printed products for companies to modernize their practices. 

4. Mass customization will fuel new growth

Over the past year, we have seen the rise of 3D printing in the consumer health sector, in applications that include eyewear and orthodontics.

Some key examples include iOrthotics, in Australia, which became the first orthotics manufacturer in the world to have completely transitioned from polypropylene milling to 3D additive manufacturing. Additionally, SmileDirectClub is digitally transforming the US$12 billion orthodontics industry by printing clear teeth aligners using the technology. They have the capacity to produce more than 50,000 unique mouth moulds a day that are offered to consumers up to 60% less cost than traditional options.

5. Electrification of vehicles gets a boost

Automobile makers are increasingly turning to 3D printing and digital manufacturing to help compete in a time of change. Some key examples in Asia include the printing of vital race car components including steering wheels that are customized to the driver’s exact specifications.

The next step we see in the industry is the use of 3D printing for electric vehicles, which will help speed up design and development through enhanced production of both metal and plastic parts. By facilitating faster prototyping of parts that were previously impossible to create, we will be able to push the capabilities of electric and even autonomous vehicles to new levels.

In conclusion, the journey to digital manufacturing through 3D Printing requires much more than just technology. Companies will likely have to evolve their business models, but there is an active collaborative ecosystem that is eager to help in the transition. The possibilities for creating superior products and streamlining supply chains while reducing the environmental impact of manufacturing are significant, and we will witness real commercial progress in time to come.