With Additive Manufacturing, the world of fantasy seems to be conquering the world of production. How much of this is reality, in industrial applications and at the Fraunhofer laboratories? Today, what the end-user knows as "3D printing" is still rare in homes, but it has already reached industrial product development and is generating end-products in fields ranging from mechanical engineering to aviation and medical technologies.
A tempting prospect: Instead of anxiously waiting a long time because the lamp bracket on your bicycle has broken in a fall, you simply download the data from the manufacturer and send it to the 3D printer in your home office to make a new bracket. A short time later you install the home-made replacement part and your bike is safe for traffic once again. Often the media like to report on such scenarios, but they only apply to a small number of end-users. In the industrial sector, on the other hand, 3D printing procedures are slowly but surely gaining a secure foothold.
Market Volume of Approximately Five Billion Euros
"A conservative estimate of the worldwide market volume for additive manufacturing machines, products and services in 2015 is almost three billion Euros, and in 2019 at approximately five billion Euros," predicts Dr. Bernhard Müller, spokesman of the Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Alliance and group manager for additive manufacturing at the Fraunhofer Institute for Machine Tools and Forming Technology IWU. In 2008, the Fraunhofer Additive Manufacturing Alliance began consolidating the activities of the Fraunhofer Institutes. "Because of the high media prominence, we're receiving more and more customer inquiries. Many are worried that they'll miss out on an important development if they don't keep up on things," Müller reports.
The German federal government's Expert Commission on Research and Innovation (EFI) also predicts an increasing significance for 3D printing. The Commission dedicated a separate chapter to the innovative production method in its 2015 annual report.