This same phenomenon has been accelerated in recent years thanks to the digitalization processes that companies are addressing. Not only we are talking about digital technologies that cover the production phases, but also about the fact that this digitalization ends up permeating their products and services and, more or less directly, their customers.
Just as naturally, we will live the same experience with additive manufacturing technologies in the years to come. Of all the technologies that make up Industry 4.0, 3D printing is the only one that transforms files into tangible realities. This is why consumers will certainly want solutions that allow them to instantly and easily manufacture the same products they buy in shops today. As a result, there is already a trend towards more and more widespread of its use in everyday life.
This boom in the 3D printing technologies is also allowing the emergence of new business models that, until recently, seemed difficult to succeed. In addition, they all benefit in some way from the advantages of additive manufacturing over traditional technologies.
The implications of 3D printing technologies are many and diverse, but businesses that know how to apply them will undeniably experience multiple competitive advantages. Firstly, 3D printing offers the possibility of working on demand, without the need to stock physical product. For companies betting on 3D printing as their productive model, their warehouse can be a repository of files in the cloud that will be downloaded when needed.
Secondly, the so-called "time-to-market" is greatly reduced. The speed and low economic implications of prototyping with these technologies allow for rapid and cost-effective iteration of any model that has been designed.
Likewise, the popularization of these technologies will foster the existence of numerous production centres: wherever there is a printer, there will be a production centre. And these production centres will be able to manufacture the products demanded in a matter of minutes or hours, surpassing the current manufacturing model.
Thirdly, 3D printing allows the industrialization of areas which historically had no production capabilities due to their characteristics (e.g. isolated or difficult to access areas) or the re-industrialization of areas from which production had been withdrawn (like city centres). The ease of installing a 3D printer in these places, the versatility it offers in terms of design and materials, as well as its easy coexistence with the normal activities of cities, open the field of application of this technology and the emergence of new business models.
Finally, it is worth highlighting the sustainability aspect of this technology. By manufacturing additively, raw material wastage is minimized and therefore there is no overexploitation or unnecessary waste of resources. Many of these technologies also reuse surplus material in printing. Furthermore, one should not forget the reduction in pollutant emissions obtained using this type of technology compared to the equipment used in more traditional industries and through the shortening of the logistics chain thanks to the distributed production previously mentioned. Based on this and in line with the SDG 2030 sustainable development commitments, 3D printing technology enables the development of business models that base their message and value proposition on a sustainable vision and production.
We are not advocating that 3D printing will replace traditional technologies, but instead we believe it complements them where the business model benefits from any of their advantages. We are convinced that access to these technologies will become easier and more competitive.
In the 3D Incubator we have the privilege of witnessing first-hand the birth of multiple projects from different economic sectors that are committed to 3D printing as a tool and/or business model. We observe the progress in the number of applications and in the use and consumption of this technology, both from the industrial sector and for start-ups that rely on this technology for the development of their prototypes or business lines. Hence, we try to provide support and advice for the growth and expansion of all these types of initiatives, both from a technological and business side.
Thirty years ago, it was unthinkable to imagine a desktop computer the size of a calculator or a watch. Will we ever see a pocket-sized 3D printer? Only time will tell.