The New Normal: How Metal AM is Gaining Wider Adoption

by | May 3, 2022 | Business Drivers

For those that work in traditional manufacturing or long-established heavy industries, metal additive manufacturing (AM) may seem like a force of disruption that’s challenging the ways of doing things. However, in order to meet the demands of industrial manufacturing and the production of core parts that power everything from the energy sector to innovative industries like space, we all, collectively, need to embrace these exciting, emerging technologies.

And, what’s more, leaders in key industries are already betting big on metal AM. 3D printing is becoming the new normal. Through its ability to increase part complexity and design freedom, shorten production lead times, and better control supply chains, metal AM has arrived as a solution innovators have been looking for.

The proof is in the numbers. According to Lux Research, “The value of additively manufactured parts is reported to rise at a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from $12 billion in 2020 to $51 billion in 2030.” We’re in an era of exponential growth for this technology.

While it’s instructive to look at the projections, the fact remains that metal AM has already arrived. For many cutting-edge industries, metal AM is the new normal, and will be the engine for some of the most ambitious projects humankind will ever undertake.

How Metal AM is Driving Space Exploration

The dream of space exploration has been the hallmark of modern technological ambition and innovation. With enterprises like Blue Origin, Astra, Relativity and so many more, the space industry is a testing ground for new technologies. It’s no surprise that many of these companies leverage metal AM in the operations, or invest in the technology outright.

Elon Musk and SpaceX have long been on the cutting edge of metal AM technology, and Velo3D’s advanced metal AM system in particular. In the SpaceX vision, one of the end goals is the exploration (and potential colonization) of Mars. In order to make a project that ambitious a reality, it would require the leveraging of metal AM on an unprecedented level.

3D Metal Printing Media Network did a breakdown of how metal AM would contribute to such a project, and the numbers, while theoretical, are truly astounding. Some of the projections include:

  • Nearly 200,000 3D printed parts weighing 100,000 tons just for the ships and boosters
  • Onboard 3D printers for replacement parts in transit and additional, larger format printers for printing materials within the Mars colony
  • An additional 100,000 tons of 3D printed materials that would be brought to space to establish the colony
  • 3D printing colonial habitats themselves

While Mars exploration is still a ways in the distance, looking at those numbers provides an idea of what a project of that magnitude would look like, and how metal AM would be instrumental in its execution.

How Metal AM is Already Transforming Manufacturing on Earth

Though space is the most extreme example of the applications for metal AM, it’s far from the only one. On Earth, right now, metal AM is already leveraged by countless industries including aerospace, energy, automotive, and many more heavy industries.

Metal AM is often associated with the cutting edge, but the reality is that its impact is being felt throughout more old-fashioned, “traditional” sectors. Because individual parts and components can be transitioned to be produced through metal AM, the change is rarely felt on a macro level. Instead, core components of larger machines can be consolidated, optimized, and produced at a much quicker rate through metal AM.

It’s time to stop thinking about metal AM in terms of disruption, or that it’s a future technology. Metal AM has already arrived, and innovators across countless sectors are leveraging it in transformative ways. By embracing metal AM, organizations are pushing the limits of what’s achievable throughout their operations and gaining a significant competitive advantage over those that are committed to traditional manufacturing methodologies.

Through innovation in design supply chain agility, metal AM has already become the new normal. While the future looks even brighter, we need only look at how this technology is transforming modern-day manufacturing to see the excitement surrounding metal AM.

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About the Author

Amir Iliaifar

Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Amir Iliaifar is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at Velo3D where he oversees the production and distribution of Velo3D’s global digital content marketing initiatives. Prior to joining the company, Amir worked for a leading professional drone manufacturer, several SaaS companies, and as an automotive tech journalist. He holds a Master of Arts in Digital Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.