4 sectors that 3D printing will revolutionize
Promises of a technological revolution, a booming market: 3D printing is on the rise. Many entrepreneurs are entering this sector, but few succeed in establishing a lasting presence there. Competition is tough, barriers to entry are often difficult to overcome, and the market is not necessarily mature.
In 2015, is it possible to launch a profitable business based on 3D printing? What are the most promising fields of application?
We have selected for you four sectors which present, in the more or less long term, an interesting potential.
3D printing is a technology very suitable for the production of simple and personalized objects. This is the case for a spectacle frame, a simple plastic object that is relatively expensive and can greatly benefit from personalization according to the tastes and morphology of the customer. The optical sector has understood it: 3D printing could well be revolutionizing the activity of eyewear manufacturers.
3D printing is already used in optics to quickly and inexpensively produce custom model prototypes. French Lu-net.fr allows you to create your model online, based on a selection of 3D models of frames available on their site. The customer can then download the 3D file and print it at home or through a 3D printing service, so they can try it out. Once the design has been validated and the last details corrected, the 3D file of the frame is sent to an eyewear craftsman in the Lu-net.fr network to be manufactured. The customer just has to pick up his pair of glasses from the craftsman.
Some eyewear manufacturers go further and aim to offer fully customizable eyewear models ready to be 3D printed. This is the case of the American Protos Eyewear which makes it possible to create a pair of made-to-measure glasses for the client and to 3D print it. 3d printing glasses thus appear to be in a position to gain market share in traditional manufacturing processes.
Maturity: 2015-2020, the advantages of 3D printing: comfort, unique design
Orthopedic insoles are objects with high added value and relatively simple to produce. A start-up from Montpellier, Eden 3D, is now tackling this promising market with the aim of offering a turnkey solution to podiatrists to manufacture orthopedic insoles for their patients, thanks to 3D printing.
The concept is simple, everything happens on the tablet application developed by Eden 3D. The podiatrist needs only to take three to five photos of the patient’s foot for the application to generate a tailor-made orthopedic sole model. The podiatrist just has to finalize the sole and send it to production, in a few clicks. The result: the patient receives an orthopedic insole within 48 hours, which is more precise than those produced using current manufacturing processes.
After raising funds of 300,000 euros in 2015, Eden 3D plans to launch its solution by the end of the year and aims for a turnover of 3.5 million euros by 2017. In such a way more generally, medical applications of 3D printing are on the rise, especially the manufacture of 3d printed prostheses.
Maturity: 2015-2020, the advantages of 3D printing: time savings, increased precision
Many toys are made of basic plastic parts. However, they are sometimes expensive! We think for example of Legos or Playmobil. 3D printing could bring about change in this sector, by making it possible to print toys or personalized toy parts at home.
Large manufacturers of 3D printers see an opportunity to make their machines more accessible to the general public and offer models of toys ready to be printed. For example, the American MakerBot collaborates with the brand Hello Kitty and offers for 8 dollars the official 3D files to print 5 plastic figures.
Traditional toy players are also starting to integrate 3D printing into their design or even distribution process: it is likely that parts or even entire toys will soon be able to be printed at home, for example Legos bricks. The3d toy printing thus appears as a field of application with great potential.
However, it will be necessary to wait for a democratization of 3D printing and an improvement in the performance of consumer 3D printers for this sector to really develop. Witness the failure of the Toyfabb platform, the leading marketplace for 3D printable toys. Too specialized? Ahead of its time ? Launched with fanfare in 2014, the project failed to find its market and the site is now closed.
Maturity: 2020-2025, lThe advantages of 3D printing: personalization, on-demand and at-home manufacturing
A giant 3D printer capable of making a table or chairs in minutes: this designer’s dream now seems almost achievable. The arrival on the market of large format 3D printers opens up new perspectives for the creation and manufacture of furniture.
The French start-up Drawn is a pioneer in this still very underdeveloped sector. The company offers a range of designer furniture printed in 3D by Galatea, their 3D printer, a unique machine of its kind. While this project is attractive, these creations remain expensive and are aimed at a niche market. Current industrial manufacturing processes remain the most profitable for mass production of furniture, and 3D printing remains largely confined to rapid prototyping applications.
Maturity: 2025-2030, the advantages of 3D printing: manufacture of furniture of complex shapes, tailor-made
Do not be mistaken and overestimate the potential of 3D printing: its current main use 3D remains rapid prototyping, and we are still far from a large-scale use of this technology for the instant manufacture of ready-to-use objects. employment.
However, 3D printing offers real prospects of disruption for many industries, especially in the context of the production of unique pieces or small series of objects with a high degree of customization. Rapid progress in 3D printing technologies, arrival on the market of 3D printers capable of printing different materials faster and cheaper, emergence of machines capable of printing electronic circuits, even human tissues… 3D printing seems promised to a bright future!
Pierre-Antoine Arrighi is a graduate of ENSEEIHT and Doctor of Innovation Management, and Martin Lansard is a graduate of EDHEC. After 5 years at Dassault Systèmes and Google respectively, they are launching Aniwaa in 2013, which quickly became a global benchmark in the 3D printing sector. VS’is a start-up whose goal is to offer relevant knowledge on 3D printing. Their services are based on a database that is unique in the world, which in particular lists most of the 3d printers and 3d scanners available in the market, allowing users to easily search and compare these products.