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Low-volume Manufacturing: Mass Customization Markets For The 3d Printing Industry: 2013-to-2022


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Published on Nov 13, 2013 SKU SMP-3D-LVM-1113 Category Tag

In this report, SmarTech identifies the opportunities emerging for the 3D printing industry from short-run manufacturing.  Already many rapid prototyping firms have moved in this direction, producing tens, hundreds or even thousands of a particular part or model.

As we see it, 3D printing has a special role to play in the low-volume manufacturing space.  It brings to the table the low unit costs typically associated with mass production while at the same time offering the flexibility of individual customization.  As such, we believe that 3D printing is a unique enabling technology for the “mass customization” meme that is sweeping the product marketing community at the present time.

As SmarTech sees it, mass customization is key to the future of 3D printing and may turn out to be the main market driver for 3D printing once the hype-driven 3D printing boom has died down. 3D printing can already be used cost effectively to produce quite large product volumes.  Hearing aid shells and copings for dental crowns and bridges are testaments to this.  And each of these products must be customized to form fit individual customers.  Meanwhile, Shapeways has built an entire business around the concept of 3D-printed mass customization.

As rapid prototyping businesses expand into low-volume manufacturing, we also expect that the addressable market for these firms will grow by orders of magnitude. In particular, we believe that existing rapid prototyping companies are very well positioned to take advantage of the mass customization trend, because the rapid prototyping sector is where one finds most of the genuine technical expertise in 3D printing at the present time.

But it’s not just the traditional rapid prototyping firms.  Service firms also have an opportunity here.  For example, in the U.K., Sainsburys, a major retailer is planning to provide 3D printing services that will enable customers to customize products that they buy from the store.  As SmarTech sees it, the developments outlined above will also generate new business revenues for 3D printer makers and their value-added resellers.

As with all SmarTech reports this report provides ten-year forecasts of the market opportunities for the 3D printing industry from low-volume, mass customized manufacturing and services; both in volume and value terms, with breakouts by product type and the sector of the 3D printing industry that will benefit from these new business revenues.  The report also contains an analysis of leading firms in this space with an assessment of their strategies.  And it also considers, how best to overcome the considerable quality demands that the transition for low-volume mass-customized will require.

SmarTech believes that this report will be essential reading for marketing, business development and product planning executives throughout the 3D printing community and also in the broader retail and manufacturing sector.  The ultimate goal of this report is to provide strategic guidance to managers in all of the above communities.