The Future of Manufacturing

Time of big growth always has been supported by manufacturing revolutions (steam engine, mass production, and automation). In advanced economies, a shrinking manufacturing sector is seen as evidence of decline and in developing countries, manufacturing is engine of development. Productivity is the core of manufacturing and it must be sustainable to serve the growth in long term.

Today, rate of economic growth in major economic blocks is declining (Figure 1) and the global manufacturing is facing a fierce competition over every scrap of market share. Neither building factories offshore to take advantage of the cheap labor nor expanding factories are solutions to this problem.

Figure 1: Global GDP growth 1965–2016 (annual %) [1]

Manufacturers plan to make significant and often fundamental changes to their business to drive future growth. However, limited baseline growth is expected in most manufacturing markets. Forward-thinking players will need to sense and anticipate the future and create an adaptive response.

Figure 2: Important factors in global manufacturing competitiveness

A compelling solution to manufacturing growth is 3D Printing also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM) which can expedite the whole manufacturing process while decreasing cost and hassle of making new products. 3D Printing creates physical objects from a digital file using layer upon layer printing approach. Figure 3 shows the process which starts with modeling the object that can be of almost any geometry. At second level, the 3D model was processed and sliced in layers. Finally, the object was fabricated through laying down material layer by layer.

Figure 3: Additive manufacturing process [2]

For manufacturers, 3D Printing is not the future, it is a production method like any other. A survey shows manufacturers consider additive manufacturing a vital part of their business operation [3] and recognize an urgent need to increase their investment into innovation and R&D. 60% of manufacturers already use 3D printing in some way, and 30% plan to adopt the technology in the future (Figure 4). However, the full potential of 3D Printing is far from tapped.

Figure 4: Current manufacture user of 3D Printing technology vs. future users; Source data [4]

3D Printing allows individuals to design and produce objects on demand. The most exciting part of this technology is beyond productivity and extends to smarter, scalable, and better products. It will create a microeconomic shift and relocate the process to home market. Because of this movement:

· The final product will be closer to consumer market

· Factories will be smaller and decentralized

· Scalability and flexibility are important not mass production

· A new area of globalization is forming


[1] The World Bank, World Bank national accounts data, and OECD National Accounts data files., (2017).

[2] B. Zareiyan, B. Khoshnevis, Effects of interlocking on interlayer adhesion and strength of structures in 3D printing of concrete, Autom. Constr. 83 (2017) 212–221. doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2017.08.019.

[3] Sculpteo, State of 3D Printing 2017, San Francisco, 2017.

[4] Stratasys, Trend Forecast: 3D Printing’s Imminent Impact on Manufacturing, (2015).