2022 trends in 3D printing, forecasts from additive manufacturing experts and leaders

What are the 2022 3D printing trends that additive manufacturing experts consider the most important?

3D Printing Industry asked academics, C-level executives, engineering experts, and investors to tell us about the future of 3D printing in 2022. 

The message is clear, 3D printing’s potential across verticles including aerospace, automotive, and medical is still growing. 

The pandemic has provided a shot in the arm for the industry, as weak links in the supply chain were cast in sharp relief additive manufacturing as part of the factories of the future took prominence on the agenda once again. Progress in material qualification and demand for higher performance materials at increasing volume illustrates the confidence manufacturers are placing in the suite of AM technologies. While addressing sustainability challenges demonstrates an industry in tune with modern times. 

Turning to finance, the burst of IPO activity in 2020 and 2021 may not be as strong, however, funding raised from investors is likely to accelerate M&A activity during 2022.

The responses cover trends towards consolidation, production, automation, wider developments in the manufacturing eco-system (including post-processing), and advances in software such as the digital thread, simulation, and the increasing use of AI. 

Do you have a different opinion or want to let us know your thoughts? As always, please get in touch, we love hearing from readers. 

Finally, this is the first article in a series looking at the future of 3D printing and manufacturing technology, so make sure you subscribe to our free newsletter and don’t miss the next installment. 

This is a long read, with over 40 CEOs, leaders, and experts weighing in. So make yourself a nice cup of tea, get comfortable and settle in for insights, analysis, hot-takes, and even the answer to that eternal question: what links Taylor Swift with Titanium?

Formnext returned for business in 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

Arno G. Held, Managing Partner, AM Ventures

After the big SPACs and IPOs in 2020 and 2021, the year 2022 is going to show a continued market consolidation. I do not expect many companies to go public anymore but those who have taken this step in the past will certainly work hard on delivering on their promises to their investors by announcing major acquisitions serving to expand their offerings. Especially the first half of the year could be densely packed with news and activities.

On top of this, a whole range of exciting start-ups is once again preparing the launches of interesting new resin-based technologies which is going to unlock entirely new applications. In the metals arena, there are several high-volume applications in the making that could boost the two- and four-wheeled electro-mobility.

Just like in the past year, there is a likelihood that the summer dull could be skipped once again in order to make use of a good climate in our industry to close and announce deals. However, there are also increasing concerns that the current hype cycle is facing a cool down towards mid/end of the second half of 2022.

Dr. Jeffrey Graves, President & CEO, 3D Systems

Across our markets, we’re seeing the adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) solutions rapidly accelerating to address a broader range of applications. More organizations are thoughtfully exploring AM for very specific applications and wanting to work with a partner who can not only integrate the entire solution and make it work seamlessly in their existing production workflow but also collaborate on developing a custom solution for their needs. This includes industrial applications such as exotic machine components for rocketry, automobiles, and semiconductor capital equipment, as well as in healthcare for patient-specific medical devices and tools that can elevate the patient experience.

As we enter 2022, I believe we’ll continue to see AM play a critical role in transforming manufacturing workflows and supply chains. Significant delays in logistics are hampering organizations’ ability to deliver products and services in a timely fashion. Being able to manufacture all critical components at the point of assembly, or point of care can streamline these activities.

I also anticipate AM’s ability to enable mass customization will bring enormous value to a host of applications to benefit both industries and people. From automotive to aerospace, semiconductor capital equipment manufacturers to service bureaus, and healthcare providers, AM has the power to improve efficiencies by simultaneously producing numerous unique, end-use parts.

At the heart of each production application is the material which is used to bring an innovative design to life. Materials play a significant role in AM and have really changed the game. With advances in this area, we’ve seen AM move from a technology for prototyping to one that is addressing production applications. As we look to the year ahead, I anticipate we’ll see advances in materials, including extending the technology to biological materials, which are what the human body is made of. These new materials have the opportunity to play a key role in the field of regenerative medicine enabling the use of AM to address key laboratory research applications for drug discovery, as well as to create arteries, veins, and eventually human organs. This can allow us to move beyond changing how businesses operate and how healthcare is delivered to directly improving the human condition.

Andreas Langfeld, President EMEA, Stratasys

In 2022, we will see a bigger move towards certified additive production to replace or complement traditional production processes. Specifically for spare parts, we will see less warehousing and more on-demand additive production, which will also support corporate sustainability goals. Selected materials and technologies will be certified and built parts will meet industry-specific requirements such as accuracy or flammability. We have already seen this with aerospace-certified FDM printed parts in aircraft.  

Terry Wohlers, Head of Advisory Services and Market Intelligence, ASTM International’s Additive Manufacturing Center of Excellence

In the year ahead, we anticipate a push in two key areas: 1) the use of in-situ monitoring systems for process and component certification and 2) post-processing to improve products quality. For critical applications, in-situ monitoring will provide a method for risk-based structural integrity and allow certification of large parts that cannot easily go through CT scanning. From an ASTM perspective, we are currently working with NASA on a three-year project to understand where in-situ monitoring can be used to detect and understand the effects of defects on structural integrity.

On the post-processing side, it is evident that to develop robust/reliable parts and products, surface finish and internal structure (microstructures, porosity level) needs to be optimized. In some cases, more than 60% of the final product cost is coming from post-processing, so we are seeing a real push in the industry to improve product quality. We believe post-processing will have a major impact on the success of AM, as was apparent at Formnext 2021.

Ric Fulop, co-founder, and CEO, Desktop Metal  

Additive manufacturing will provide companies the opportunity to re-shore production. There has been massive growth and consolidation in the additive manufacturing space, which is providing companies the ability to rethink their manufacturing operations and re-shore them back to the U.S. as it becomes more affordable. For example, the jewelry industry started in Manhattan, but most of the jewelry hasn’t been manufactured there for over 50 years due to costs. Now, companies have access to additive manufacturing wherever they want the parts made and don’t have to rely on consolidation and transportation across the world. This will result in an increase in jobs within the U.S., an emphasis on education for the workforce, and a decrease in reliance on long supply chains. 

Innovation in manufacturing won’t be new, it will be the standard. Manufacturing has stalled due to the ongoing challenges facing companies. From commodity shortages to supply chain issues, the industry has been stuck in a “new normal” for the last 18 months, but has been unable to employ the tools needed to adapt. With manufacturing accounting for just 14 percent of GDP in the U.S. in 2019 and dropping even more throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (McKinsey Sept 2021), the manufacturing industry embracing new technology will need to become the standard. This means that the industry can’t wait for tomorrow’s innovations—the industry giants need to look to emerging technologies to solve problems, today.  

A scaled back Rave 'til AM at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.
A scaled-back Rave ’til AM at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

Didier Deltort, President, HP Personalization & 3D Printing Business

We’ll see more innovative applications and opportunities to embrace the circular economy in industries like automotive and healthcare where high costs and complex logistics have previously acted as a barrier to widespread adoption. Consumers will be brought in much earlier into the design process in sectors like footwear and sports equipment, leading to increased satisfaction and brand loyalty. We are on the cusp of an innovation boom – driven by our need for more meaningful connections to the products we buy and the brands we support – that will reverberate throughout all elements of business and manufacturing as we know it.

We are obviously very excited about the promise of additive for mass metal manufacturing. Auto manufacturers are among the most demanding in the world and in 2021 we saw leaders such as Volkswagen highlight the use of metal binder jetting for structural components. As we move toward broader commercial Metal Jet availability in 2022 we look forward to showcasing new production applications with partners and customers.

David Iacovelli, Regional Director EMEA, EOS

Sustainability has become a driving force in society as across the globe nations stride forward to meet the goals they have set for themselves on net-zero economies during the COP26 conference. In 2022, AM will become more dominant as a key route to achieving this with the new opportunities it creates for organisations across the design and manufacturing workflow.  Every day parts are being redesigned to be lighter and stronger, while using less material, but we will see more companies take on new approaches to their workflow in 2022, embracing decentralized manufacturing, digital warehousing, and production on demand to name but a few.  Sustainable manufacturing is now being viewed as not just environmentally, but economically viable.

New sustainable materials too will be more commonly used in 2022 and beyond, such as our own Carbon Neutral PA11 which offers huge advantages across a wide range of industries.  These new materials play a key role in helping manufacturers reduce the weight of components and powder waste, while optimizing CO2 emissions, as delivering full recyclability of parts and powder.

Nora Toure, Founder, Women in 3D Printing

From a diversity perspective, we’ve seen an increased interest from the industry for more gender parity and broader diversity, in terms of race, background, experience.

I would expect interest to increase furthermore and be translated into action, especially as the AM industry opens itself more to cross-industries and technologies, and thus, welcomes more external talents. At Wi3DP, we’re working on a couple of programs that would enable organizations in our industry to take those actions in diversifying their workforce.

Avi Reichental, co-founder & CEO, Nexa3D

The next year will be defined by trends determined in large part by the perpetual pandemic state of affairs. The last two years have exposed a highly complex and brittle supply chain, which is top of mind for most product companies and driving CEOs to accelerate the digitization and localization of their supply chain with AM playing a central role with emphasis on speed, throughput, cost, and sustainability.

With more companies transitioning to volume additive production, we will experience stronger demand for scaled post-processing and full factory automation solutions that are anchored by advanced and adaptive machine learning and vision technologies for greater production consistency and yields.

We will surely see expanded open innovation and collaboration ecosystems in which everyone achieves more. This collaborative mindset will drive faster adoption and technology advancements benefiting from greater talent and geographical diversity as our definition of workplace gets hybridized.

Nexa3D enter the desktop market with Joel Telling at formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.
Nexa3D enter the desktop market with Joel Telling at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

Brian Thompson, CAD Division Vice President and General Manager, PTC

Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) will continue to grow, with software being a critical driver in the adoption of industrial additive manufacturing. We will continue to overcome the current fragmentation of point solutions and build towards a connected eco-system, combining hardware, software, and materials. 

We expect to see movement and excitement around post-processing for 3D metal printing.  A lot is going on with technologies to complement the printing process itself and that implies a certain maturity in metal printing processes, at least for several niche markets.  

Hybrid manufacturing (one machine doing both additive and subtractive) will continue to be a hot topic and to mature with people looking to combine 3 and 5-axis milling with additive in the same machine, optimized by software control, eliminating the need for separate post-processing equipment. 

We’re already witnessing great strides in the prediction of deformation in metal printing, but even in plastics, we expect to see more interest in simulation tools to solve the distortion problems inherent to manufacturing with polymers.  We also expect to see products that improve the predictability of polymer printing.  

Last, we’re also expecting to see more focus on the end-to-end digital thread on the entire value chain, from concept to post-processing and on to quality control and inspection.  In our own experience here, we’ve had a demonstration project featuring not only an innovative heat exchanger (an achievement in itself), utilizing the flagship technologies of CAD (design & simulation), PLM (process plan & data management), and IIOT (job order execution and monitoring), right down to the use of Augmented Reality (AR) to ‘bring’ the part to the table of someone half a world away! You’re not going to see companies adopt this wholescale in September 2022, but it’s where we’re going.

Stephan Kühr, Founder and CEO, 3YOURMIND

We don’t need a crystal ball to know that the future of 3D printing is bright. The global pandemic has proven that AM and 3D printing technologies play an influential role in manufacturing. The shift toward supply chain agility, speed, and reliability will be the cornerstones of a decentralized manufacturing revolution. In 2022, we expect a ‘post-proof of concept’ year for AM. 

I see four main trends that will be at the core of the coming year: 

Increased need for AM standardization and automation in the production processes 

High demand to find and evaluate new business cases

AM cost justification

Strengthen AM suppliers networks

These are the foundations to create the future factories – and the biggest companies have already started!

Tremendous potential exists in the 3D printing industry to trigger creativity by addressing industry challenges that prompt idea generation, initial design, and pilot solutions.

Frank Roberts, President, 6K Additive 

Customers are constantly demanding new parts for additive manufacturing and seeking products involving higher-performing metals. Refractory materials such as tungsten and tungsten-rhenium are examples of materials becoming increasingly popular due to their resistance to certain processes. At 6K Additive we are seeing a huge rise in the demand and requirements for refractory powders at production volumes.

The industry will also continue to focus on sustainability to overcome the environmental challenges brought about by dirty processes in the supply chain starting with powder. The industry will start to demand documented proof from life cycle analysis programs from third parties to limit greenwashing and provide more holistic data – particularly with reference to supply chain.

Kaj Fuehrer, CEO, enter2net.com

A topic that has been in the starting blocks for some time will finally be commercially realised in 2022: The printing of vector graphic slices derived from STEP/B-Rep data for laser-based 3D printing technologies. The laser will then run real curves and circles, not polygonal lines obtained from tessellated data. This certainly has some potential to simplify data handling and improve print quality for modern SLM and SLS printers.

Joseph Crabtree, CEO and Founder, AMT 

In the coming year, we see an immediate and positive shift from low volume prototyping to high volume manufacturing. This is no longer an aspiration but is happening right now, right here. AMT is at the heart of several big projects that validate the entire thesis behind AM. These projects to provide end-to-end automated workflows are driven by the applications which are now starting to see commercial reality in 2022. Automotive and medical are a big focus area in 2022 and we expect this continued high-volume adoption to continue especially given the continued headwinds of supply chain problems initiated by the C19 pandemic.

Post-processing by AMT at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.
Post-processing by AMT at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

Daeho Hong, Product Manager, nTopology

In 2022, many businesses will evolve their key additive manufacturing applications from prototyping and R&D to production. We expect to see more product validations and launches in aerospace, automotive, heavy industry, and medical devices than we’ve seen in past years. More integrated and automated AM workflows will be favored for streamlining the product development and manufacturing processes through integrations between enterprise systems, AM software, and hardware. Stabilizing the selected AM technologies, scaling up to reduce costs, and implementing quality control strategies will be the main challenges this year as we witness the progression from prototyping to production.  

Gil Lavi, Founder & CEO, 3D Alliances

In the short term, I see more synergies between the following four pillars: 3D software, 3D printers, Post-processing, and materials for 3D printing. With the increased awareness and demand by industrial users for implementing AM across their manufacturing processes, solution providers understand the importance of connecting the dots to one end-to-end workflow. Therefore, in the coming year, I see more intimate collaborations between hardware, software, and materials 3D printing companies, to help users to integrate AM in real production. Another challenge I see is for publicly traded 3D printing companies to conquer their top evaluations in 2021. Only a few will be able to do so, based only on strong financial results. For the longer term, simply put, this industry will continue to grow and break boundaries, finding new ways to transform analog and manual processes into digital ones.

Kathy Bui, Product Lead, Engineering Business, Formlabs

In 2022, the use of 3D printing will increase as more innovative materials come to market to serve a variety of industries such as healthcare, dental, manufacturing, engineering, education, jewelry, audio, and entertainment. In addition to evolving the existing materials to advance their affordability, functionality, and efficiency, advancements in material production will open up new markets while enabling manufacturers to reduce wasted materials and lower costs. In 2022, material innovation will be critical in the future growth of 3D printing in manufacturing and beyond.

As the healthcare industry continues to grapple with challenges such as labor shortages, the ongoing pandemic, and demand for more personalized healthcare, 3D printing is the technology that can both improve and streamline key medical processes. These demands spark the inflection point that will lead to increased adoption of 3D printing within medical practices and offices.

3D Printing Industry Awards winner at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.
3D Printing Industry Awards winner at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

Oliver Smith, Founder, Principal Consultant, Rethink Additive

Whilst the COVID pandemic dealt huge economic damage to a wide range of industries through 2020 and 2021, it drove a radical reappraisal of 3D printing in the minds of supply chain strategists, procurement and operations leaders, and even government agencies; a rapid response solution to crippling supply chain disruption. 

Now, as we move into a new stage of relative economic stability in 2022, industries are catching a breath and turning back to 3D printing, not from a position of hurried panic, but in a considered and strategic approach looking to seriously appraise and invest in the technology as a key component to their production and sourcing strategies. 

2022 will see a marked increase AM adoption by organisations both large and small who have become aware of it’s benefits firsthand or from media coverage in the face of supply chain disruption caused by COVID. This second wave of media “hype” however differs from that of the early 2010s, where the promises of the technology didn’t reflect the reality of their capabilities.  The hype wave that kicks of this decade sees 3D printing 10 years more mature, and capable of true series production applications; not until 2020 has there been such a diverse range of technologies, vendors, materials, and price points available to organisations looking to adopt 3D printing beyond prototyping.

Whilst larger platform vendors such as EOS, Stratasys, HP, and 3D Systems will continue to vertically target with high-performance, high-productivity systems, many historically lower-cost players such as FormLabs and Ultimaker have aggressively re-engineered and re-branded towards series production “on a budget”.  The traditional barrier to entry for 3D printing beyond prototyping has never been lower, and with a significant portion of the market becoming much more aware of 3D printing as a production solution, we should expect these entry-level production systems to support a whole new wave of users in 2022; those who want to bring 3D printing to their production floor, but have a budget.

Dr. Johannes Homa, CEO, Lithoz 

Here at Lithoz, we are seeing a big surge of interest in the power of ceramics. The desirable material properties of ceramics, when combined with the manufacturing possibilities of 3D printing, allow for far more complex and fine geometries. This is opening the door to entirely new applications, including applications entering serial production, which will make the next year very exciting in terms of seeing in which industries 3D printing will next take off!

As well as ceramics, however, sinter-based metal materials beyond BPJ are also getting more and more attention in the additive manufacturing field due to the high-quality results we are seeing from such components. Finally, there are new high-performance plastic materials coming onto the market, which are sure to find new applications and uses in many diverse industries over the next year.

Roger Uceda, Technology Transfer Director CIM-UPC & co-founder BCN3D 

I am sorry to tell you that Additive Manufacturing is a mature technology (this is good news!) so I do not expect to see any new shiny technology in the market. What I see as a trend is metal additive manufacturing through the combination of different processes such as FFF, MIM and why not, CNC. This is something that I expect to grow potentially during the next months.

Henrike Wonneberger, COO and co-founder, Replique

3D printing technologies are developing quickly and the demand is for them to be bigger, faster, and cheaper. As more and more businesses switch to 3D printing, these advancements will accelerate. With processes such as freeform printing, without the use of support structures, the versatility of 3D printing is growing, and we see uptake of 3D printing in industries that hadn’t previously considered it. We expect to see further developments with this, as its potential for cost and time savings are highly favourable.

Rush LaSelle, Senior Director, Additive Manufacturing, Jabil

We expect continued focus on decreasing production costs using additive technologies. The results will aid greatly in justifying the use of additive over traditional manufacturing for mid-volume and price-sensitive applications. Key cost pools will include achieving higher throughput per CAPEX dollar associated with industrial printers, as well as reduced labor costs and less time from design-to-delivery, along with relief from high material pricing.

Reducing the costs to procure and operate 3D printers remain critical factors for operators focused on serial production. As users strive to realize the benefits of additive manufacturing for higher-volume applications, the ability to increase throughput is imperative. Providing larger numbers of lasers within powder-bed platforms or higher deposition rates while improving print resolution will deliver better economics and more attractive returns on capital investments.

Dependency on highly-trained workforces across the full production lifecycle will continue to be a barrier despite expanded workforce training and greater automation of preproduction processes. Training for office, engineering, and production personnel, as well as expanded process automation, will contribute to wider AM utilization beyond prototyping, bridge, and high-value sectors.

Issues with additive material supply chains will continue to impact the high cost of parts. This has been, in part, artificially inflated as system providers manage closed ecosystems to recoup investments in their existing technology portfolios. Until recently, the volume of materials consumed by 3D printers has been relatively unattractive to the largest material suppliers. It is expected that the dynamics will continue shifting in the short term with more machine suppliers permitting open-sourced materials while large polymer and metals suppliers engage increasingly in the space to reduce powder and filament costs.

Luis Folgar, EVP Americas, AMT Inc.

Post-production demands and requirements will increase for the adoption of 3D printing as a sustainable production process.  Energy efficiency and sustainability will be metric that many service providers will have to quantify and demonstrate as production programs transition to AM.

Filemon Schoffer, co-founder and CCO, Hubs

3D printing will continue to dominate as a prototyping and tooling solution, its killer application. And as more engineers explore what 3D printing can bring to their businesses, more will use the full extent of services from online manufacturing platforms, like Hubs, for their 3D printing needs.

Jonah Myerberg, co-founder, CTO and SVP of Global Engineering, Desktop Metal

New sustainability expectations put forth by state and federal governments will push companies to embrace the 4th industrial revolution. The automotive industry has seen the greatest impact of green initiatives – from EV mandates in the state of California, to President Biden’s Build Back Better plans. This will bleed into other industries in 2022 including retail, consumer goods, aerospace, healthcare, and more—leading companies to more fully embrace and realize the 4th industrial revolution. In turn, this will influence companies to build more with less, leveraging new processes – for example, additive manufacturing upcycled sawdust with Forust, a sustainable alternative to traditional wood manufacturing – to provide their businesses with effective and more sustainable solutions.

Facing shortened supply lines, reimagined factories will emerge. Demand and supply chain issues have continued in the wake of the ripple effect from the pandemic. As companies seek new ways to address their supply chain challenges, technologies like additive manufacturing (3D printing), artificial intelligence, and even robotics will play a key role. Moving into 2022, manufacturers will look to embrace these technologies to help shorten their supply lines, reimagine the factory, and revolutionize how global business is done.

Mike Jafar, President, and CEO, Desktop Health

Emerging technology will eliminate the idea of “waiting” for surgery. Personalized healthcare isn’t new—we have seen its application grow especially in digital health as a result of the pandemic. The digitization of data, from MRI to CT scans have always given us access to files which can be converted into a 3D rendering. Until now, the limitation has been the printer and the material science. Both of which have significantly improved due to a decade of university-based research making its way into the public market. This means the next hip transplant needed by an orthopedic patient will be designed, printed, and put in to exactly mirror the real thing. The concept of waiting for a transplant, or waiting for the next shipment of medical devices will become a thing of the past. Immediate, highly customized healthcare will grow to be a mainstay. 

The dental office is going digital. With almost 50% of U.S. consumers’ last dental visit being prior to the pandemic (2019 or before), the dentist industry will feel like an unfamiliar place for patients as they return in the New Year. With the increase in digital health within the primary care office, the dental office will embrace new tools to elevate patient experience. Tools like chairside 3D printing of crowns, dentures/teeth (for example) will increase in use, among other tools that provide highly customized experiences while still cutting down the need for revisits. 

Personalized medicine will change many aspects of medicine from cost savings to time savings – there won’t be an area that isn’t affected positively by 3D printing. Today when a patient needs to have a personalized stint or graft made, they might have to stay at the hospital for several days while that product is being made for them. This would end up costing the patient in the thousands just for the hospital stay. Now with 3D printing, the doctor is able to digitally create the stint or graft needed and create the customized product within just a few hours, significantly cutting the patient’s hospital bill. The personalization of 3D printing for healthcare allows for a better fit, less failure, and greater speed and cost savings. 

Additive manufacturing is going to be our only solution for how we manufacture goods in the future, including healthcare. This isn’t 10 years or even five years out. The future is within the next two years. Companies will need to find more sustainable ways to manufacture their goods. It is an incredible and amazing time to be a part of this industry change that will have such a profound impact on the global thumbprint and our ecosystem. 3D printing is bringing healthcare to the cusp of a revolution through pushing the boundaries and making applications that could minimize inventory, minimize supply chain issues, increase patient care, and decrease time spent in hospitals. Once 3D printing is widespread, you should be able to get something printed to exactly your specifications in 30-60 minutes instead of 1+ weeks.

Amir Veresh, Founder, eConsulting Ltd.

In the last few years, the holy grail for additive manufacturing is to penetrate real manufacturing (as opposed to prototyping and very short production series). Additive manufacturing solutions’ vendors are dedicating much effort to increasing productivity, enhancing yield, strengthening reliability and providing additional materials that fit the real manufacturing needs (mechanical properties, cost, and even, maybe, adherence to existing industry material related standards and regulations).

Wanting to manufacture using additive manufacturing first aimed at addressing needs, such as product improvement by improved geometries, the need for short production series, value identified in customization and personalization, etc., is now fortified by the global supply chains crisis (due to the pandemic, but wouldn’t it happen any way?) and the climate crisis with the understanding that, the way we do things must change significantly, and ASAP. Innovations such as IoT and I4.0 only increase the justification to integrate additive manufacturing as an additional mainstream manufacturing method, sometimes a replacement to, but in many cases complementing traditional manufacturing methods.

To become part of the mainstream, improved technology performance and better materials is a must but not enough; unless accompanied by strong workflow support (from dedicated DfAM tools to specialized ERP modules and different efficiency tools, as well as a huge effort to adapt standards and regulations to additive manufacturing, I believe, there will not be a significant change in the rate of adoption of additive manufacturing in many new and challenging manufacturing segments, that hold huge potential.

Having said that, I believe that 2022 will be a good additive manufacturing year, as even before mass penetration is made possible, there is enough available potential to meet the optimistic forecasts we live by. It will take a long time, if ever, for additive manufacturing, to replace very large chunks of traditional mass manufacturing. But this should not be the target, not even for the long term. The real strength and opportunity for additive manufacturing lies with replacement of manufacturing methods related to low volume – high mix products, and I believe more such suitable segments will be identified in 2022 and the years to come.  

Jordi Drieman, 3D Application Specialist,  Mimaki Europe

Full colour 3D printing is certainly something that I see being a trend in 2022 – while this doesn’t sound like a new trend for 3DP, notably this technology is becoming more and more accessible for entry-level 3D printers, as well as the variety of colours on offer growing. This opens the door for more creatives and educators to produce realistic/true to vision models and other items in the medical, art and gaming sectors for example, now that they have millions of different colours at their disposal.

Notably one of 2021’s biggest 3D events, Formnext, even centred around the theme of ‘Live and in Colour’, a nod to colour 3DP’s importance in today’s industry.

Dr. Alvaro Goyanes Goyanes, Co-founder & CEO, FabRx

In the healthcare and pharmaceutical arena, we will see results for multiple studies evaluating the clinical use of 3D printing for the preparation of medicines. We will also see a bigger investment of pharmaceutical companies in this new technology in the pharmaceutical sector. Pharmaceutical regulatory agencies like FDA and EMA will follow the way initiate by the UK agency (MHRA) regulating 3D printing for Point of Care manufacturing

Kristin Mulherin, General Manager, Powder Products, Nexa3D & President Women in 3D Printing

While the transition to production-scale 3D printing has been ongoing, the focus on scaling additive manufacturing for production has greatly accelerated in 2021. Up until recently, however, the focus has been primarily on creating faster, higher-volume printers. Looking towards 2022, there will be more emphasis on the complete AM workflow, automation, and software tools to enable real and scalable production volume printing capabilities.

Chris Connery, VP of Global Analysis, CONTEXT

Some of the key trends for 2022 seen already include (1) proliferation of high-temperature, material extrusion thermoplastic printers (2) composites, (3) Binder Jetting for metal, and (4) company growth by way of consolidation. In high-temperature thermoplastics, the expiration of key Stratasys patents for these type printers has really opened the competitive landscape which looks to accelerate in 2022. Tangential to this is the trend for Composites where companies look to continue to innovate with new product platforms. In Metals, Binder Jetting started to accelerate in 2021 as many projected but looks to really accelerate in 2022 as Desktop Metal begins initial shipments of its Production Systems and fully integrated and accelerates ExOne as HP also starts to commercialize its Metal Jet technology. All this innovation also makes the market ripe for continued consolidation. Key to this consolidation will be the ability for acquiring companies to make one plus one equal more than just two however.

Andre Wegner, CEO, Authentise

Consolidation: There’s a lot of cash sloshing around the additive industry now that a few of the bigger startups have had larger exits through SPACs or otherwise. We’ll see some of that money put to good use in acquisitions, as we’ve already seen in the latter half of last year. Other companies will fail as cash dries up later in the year. Industrial (esp hardware) remains a marathon activity – so many of the 100+ metal startups and the dozens of software startups won’t make it.

Partnering: A software alternative to outright consolidation is partnering. There are so many excellent point solutions in process monitoring, design and beyond that don’t get to tell their tale because it’s hard to displace incumbents and get folks to learn how to use new technologies. That can be overcome by bringing solutions together through partnership, as Authentise has done by announcing the integration of software tools (such as nebumind, Riven or Addiguru) as well as hardware (Solukon) last year. 

Scaled Production: We’ve already heard about metal and polymer use cases of millions of identical parts. We’ll see those come to fruition in 2022, emboldening other, nascent plans for scale.

Martin Hermatschweiler, CEO, Nanoscribe

Sustainability, an ever-increasing performance of mobile devices as well as the Internet of things (IoT) are driving the ongoing miniaturization of precision parts, especially in the field of optics. Additive microfabrication based on Two-Photon Polymerization with optical quality surfaces and with high precision alignment capabilities serves these demands as a key enabling technology, e.g. for photonic packaging applications.

Miniaturization is also the key factor in numerous life science and biomedical applications, may it be for optical or microfluidic sensing, for tissue engineering, for implants, or for drug delivery.

Two-Photon polymerization is thus on a great journey. As we tend to say: Think big. print nano.

Gareth Neal, Customer Applications Manager, Advanced Applications, Technologies & Fluid, Xaar

This year will see the continuation of Additive Manufacturing’s move into scale manufacturing across a variety of sectors and applications. While in many cases this change may not be obvious, as businesses protect their IP, progress will be driven on multiple fronts. From the evolution in new material properties and machine configurations, through to software developments and the definition of throughput capability by production metrics, AM and 3DP will come of age. 

In addition, the complexity of some projects will demand networks where companies work together to enable delivery of a complete solution. Only through collaboration and sharing knowledge across the whole supply chain will the investment, breadth of vision and capability for AM develop, ensuring it becomes an established part of the manufacturing process.

Xavier Martínez Faneca, CEO, BCN3D 

2022 looks exciting and challenging at the same time. We come from a hard 2021 where we had to face the never-ending pandemic plus a crisis in logistics and materials sourcing. 2022 must be better, but still new waves of Covid and supply chain issues are present. Anyway, the feeling I had with different players in and outside the industry let us think that we are facing a better year in general. The importance of software will also be very relevant in 2022. the adoption of metal -at BCN3D we will ship our new Metal Pack solution for our FFF Epsilon series 3D printers- thanks to the fact that it is becoming more and more accessible at a cost level for companies. understanding the productivity of AM as being able to make small customized series and not fight against injection molding. the importance of sustainability and the carbon footprint.

Sylvia Monsheimer, Head of New 3D Printing Technologies, Evonik

We can already see in some areas that the market is consolidating. I expect this trend to continue next year. I’m also convinced that not only from Evonik’s perspective we can expect even more new materials to be launched in the market next then which will lead to more real productions. And last but not least, sustainability aspects will be the most important topic across the entire value chain, and maybe this is a great opportunity for additive manufacturing in general.

Fedor Antonov, CEO, Anisoprint

The main trend, industrialization, will continue next year, too. The number of industrial machines will increase, with a wider variety of technologies and materials. More industries will adapt functional parts and end-use parts, we will see an increasing number of applications.

And of course, the market will continue to grow despite the corona crisis and actually not only despite, but due to the supply chain and logistics problems the crisis has revealed. Many companies face difficulties with their supply chains, and 3D printing can help them. This is an ideal time for 3D printing to become more widely used in industrial applications.

Dr. Ingo Ederer, CEO, Voxeljet

We have already noticed this year that many customers, whether OEMs or SMEs, are interested in larger machines with increased productivity. The trend towards series production as well as the production of spare parts using AM is thus clearly recognizable for us and will continue to consolidate in 2022. In addition, there is an increasing demand for a wide variety of materials, some of which are also sustainable, as more and more industries discover the potential of additive manufacturing for themselves and would like to process materials that are outside the AM classics such as PA12. It, therefore, stands to reason that the binder jetting process will continue to consolidate its place in industrial applications, as it combines productivity and material diversity in a unique way.

James DeMuth, Founder & CEO, Seurat

More multi-laser systems will be released but will result in minimal improvement in speed for LPBF. We’ll also see progress on the capabilities of tuning laser parameters to increase quality (i.e. less supports, higher resolution).

Dr. Joshua Pearce, John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation, Western University, Canada

Over this next year we can expect to see increasingly sophisticated open-source computer vision (CV) and artificial intelligence (AI) applied to both industrial as well as consumer-grade 3-D printers making them ‘smart’. These smart 3-D printers will not only detect errors, but fix an increasingly challenging list of errors in real-time. In the past, the primary challenges of operating 3-D printers have been overcome by global collaboration, which now sees even low-end and DIY 3-D printers come with auto-bed leveling and filament runout detectors. This year will provide the start of CV and AI that will help further democratize AM for even more distributed manufacturing. 

John Barnes, Managing Director, and Laura Ely, Director of Programs, The Barnes Group Advisors

Our approach to 2022 can be summed up by Taylor Swift’s appropriately titled “22”:  “Yeah, we’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time.  It’s miserable and magical, oh yeah. I don’t know about you, But I’m feeling 22, Everything will be alright if You keep me next to you”.  

And 22 is the atomic number for Titanium, the best metal, so what’s not to look forward to? 

We will continue the steady and tedious progression to productivity via better machines, more machines, and better understanding of the digital workflow which may even cause a re-think in some areas.  As we like to say, AM is magical but not magic because too often, AM is brought in after all the other methods have been defeated, leaving AM and magic as the alternatives.  AM will be less magic and more magical which will help reduce the misery and increase consistency.

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Featured image shows XJET 3D printed ceramics at Formnext 2021. Photo by Michael Petch.

2022 trends in 3D printing, forecasts from additive manufacturing experts and leaders

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