Three-dimensional printing holds promise for a manufacturing industry that will operate "on demand" and reduce the need for warehouses and distribution centres to store and ship parts. This is because 3D printing can print the whole product instead of the alternative of producing parts and assembling them.
That said, experts say 3D printing will not replace traditional manufacturing in the foreseeable future because it's still more expensive and slower than traditional techniques of casting, forging, stamping, and moulding that have been used for centuries. The opportunity for 3D printing is not in cost savings but in production of highly customised products.
In healthcare, 98% of hearing aids worldwide are now 3D-printed, according to a report by Wohlers Associates, and crafted to fit each user's unique ear shape. In 2017, athletic apparel company adidas started selling 3D-printed shoes to elite athletes based on their performance data.
— By Alexis See Tho (Alexis.SeeTho@aicpa-cima.com), an FM magazine associate editor.