+$300 million. This is the amount that startups related to 3D printing raised in venture capital funding last year. The 3D printing industry is growing exponentially and is being integrated across more and more industries. Whether you belong in the SME category, are a major investor or a consultant, take note of these trends.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has had a steady presence since its inception over 30 years ago. Simply put, the process involves creating a three-dimensional object
from a digital file.
But let's save the complex terminology and techniques for another day and zoom out to see what the 3D printing industry is up to at large.
Can you imagine a world where we can heal wounds by 3D printing a patient’s skin cells and applying them directly to the wound? Well, this is soon to be a reality. Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has developed a mobile skin bioprinting system which allows scientists to take and grow skin cells from uninjured tissue, mix them with hydrogel and put them into a bioprinter to apply the skin to the wounded areas. This will provide faster healing of the skin as a result of the bioprinter's ability to replicate the skin structure.
In Sweden, 3D printing has been employed to recreate puréed food for the elderly living in care centres. This demographic is typically served unappetising pieces of purified foods such as chicken, broccoli or starch and as a result, often lose the motivation to eat. So a state innovation body, Rise, is producing food that looks like the real thing via 3D printing technology, such as chicken legs but has a soft consistency so that the elderly residents might once again enjoy dining.
According to the latest quarterly trends report by 3D Hubs, the largest users of 3D printed parts is consumer electronics and automotive industries. 75% of major car companies in Germany and the US use 3D printing to produce end-use parts, that is, the parts that the consumer will use to create the finished look for the product purchased.
The notable Italian company Fiat even went a step beyond company manufacturing by connecting its consumers to personal 3D printing with the launching of its Centroventi concept car. The Centroventi caters to avid customisers who can personalise their Fiat by printing the desired 3D printable parts at home or by selecting the among 114 accessories Fiat has on offer.
Plastic is a design failure, according to founders of Rotterdam studio The New Raw. The elements last forever, yet we throw them away after one use, which has proven quite damaging to our environment. This is why The New Raw collects plastic waste in places like Thessolonica, Greece and repurposes it into urban furniture using 3D printing technology.
The UK surpassed Germany this year to become Europe’s largest demander of online 3D printing, which should be welcome news for the UK’s economy in light of Brexit. The country even has a plan for its breakup with the EU, the Additive Manufacturing UK National Strategy 2018-25, in which the UK will seek to become the leader in the world for additive manufacturing by 2025. Time will tell if England’s efforts to increase skills and knowledge within this sector among its workers to achieve this goal has paid off.
Create Cafe is a Canadian company that has capitalised on 3D printing, offering patrons coffee while they use the cafe’s 3D printers. It boasts the largest 3D printer in North America, having printed entire campers measuring over 500 cubic feet. The relatively new cafe provides prototyping, consultation, design, workshops, and 3D printing supplies, making it a major creative hub for 3D printing. Take notes young SMEs.
Chilean company Copper 3D Inc. is teaming up with NASA to develop antimicrobial 3D printing materials to construct medical devices counteracting microbial risks that could occur during long space missions. The medical devices NASA and Copper 3D Inc. hope to build together include a flexible wound care dressing, finger orthosis and a basic surgical kit.
Here at SumUp we utilise 3D printing daily when it comes to our card readers. Industrial Designer Ricardo Maffazioli says, "For us, it's really good. In the beginning, it's great to help us physically check the design. Then we check for functionality.” SumUp continues to ask “What can we do better?” when it comes to user experience. Having the freedom to redesign and enhance products where possible gives us the freedom we need to be truly innovative.
Are you an innovative SME in need of a payments solution? Check out SumUp for intuitive products created to enhance your business.