3D printing – don’t believe all the hype


Last month, Morgan Stanley released its Blue Paper concerning 3D printing and its industrial applications. Contrary to the enthusiasm of many fans for the technology, the authors do not see it as a “game changer.” What they see is “a complementary technology rather than a disruptive one.”

However the report acknowledges that such technology “is proven and powerful [and] affords major advantages in certain settings where bespoke design, complex geometry, weight and other considerations are paramount.” In particular, the study highlights the fact that aerospace & defense is, and will be, one of the industrial sector for which additive manufacturing is already in use, and could well be more and more widespread. As an example, a recent in-depth article from British business weekly The Economist notes Lockheed Martin’s F-35 JSF contains 900 parts that could be produce using additive manufacturing.

Some of the main actors in the aerospace sector are already using “3D printed” parts. For instance, General Electric, in November 2012, bought Morris Technologies, a major player in this emerging industrial process. The main reason being the possibility to make complex lightweight components.

Rival Engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney has integrated around two dozen 3D printed parts in its new Pure Power Geared Turbofan. However, it appears that until today, 73% of OEMs polled by Morgan Stanley’s analysts, use the technology to create prototypes.

Consulting firm Wohlers Associate notes that the market for 3D printers grew 29% since 2011, while Morgan Stanley estimates that 3D Printing market can grow from $2 billion today to $9 billion by 2020.