PostProcess, a manufacturer of automated post-processing systems, has released the results of its Additive Manufacturing Post-Printing Industry Trends Survey for 2021.
Following up on 2020’s pandemic-focused report, the firm claims that this year’s survey shows 3D printing companies are starting to put what they’ve learned from COVID-19 into practice, with post-processing becoming a priority for those entering “higher volume production,” and many choosing to use only one additive manufacturing technology.
An in-depth look at post-production
The now-annual PostProcess survey, which was launched in 2019, is aimed at encouraging users of post-processing systems to share their experiences with the technology in practice. By compiling the data, the company hopes to chart a course for the post-printing and 3D printing industries, as well as incorporate its findings into the products it sells.
The poll has previously provided fascinating insights,
shedding light on the relationship between resin removal and surface finishing, as well as assisting in the identification of some of the industry’s key trends and challenges,
and this year’s survey promises to be just as insightful about the sector’s post-pandemic prospects.
In terms of demographics, 51% of respondents to PostProcess’ third poll have used 3D printing for more than five years,up from 45% in 2020, indicating that its findings are as well-founded as ever.
More than half of the participants (52%) are from Europe, with 39 per cent from the United States, and responders came from over 25 different industries, ranging from automotive to medical.
PostProcess Identifying the AM tech trends for 2021
The most prevalent technologies employed by respondents to the PostProcess 2021 poll were material extrusion, vat photopolymerization, and powder bed fusion (PBF).
However, when compared to the same period in 2020,
the firm saw a drop from 70% to 50% of those using multiple manufacturing technologies, implying that manufacturers are beginning to specialize to optimize their processes.
Similarly, participants listed part uniformity, lead times, and damage as their top three extrusion 3D printing pain issues. Surprisingly, while these users identified the most pain points of any technology surveyed, vat photopolymerization saw the biggest shift in priorities, with adopters shifting their attention away from labour and throughput issues and toward safety and sustainability.
The growing worries of vat photopolymerization users, according to PostProcess, are “most likely attributable to the expansion of resin-based solutions,” as well as “the special considerations that tie into this technology.”
Support removal and surface finishing were the top two most used post-processing technologies, as they had been in previous years, according to the firm, which sees this as being dependent on the needs of 3D printers themselves. Participants also reported that part completion was their top issue in this region for the third year in a row,
Although this percentage fell from 75% to 53% between 2019 and 2021.
Operational insights from PostProcess
In terms of total post-printing spending, the PostProcess study indicated that respondents are progressively allocating more than a quarter of their budget to the activity, with the percentage of those doing so increasing from 23% to 31% year over year. DED users,
who made up a small percentage of the poll’s participants, reported the greatest rise, and extrusion 3D printer adopters indicated they spent the least.
Manufacturers who needed to use removal techniques, on the other hand, reported spending the highest on post-printing as a percentage of their additive manufacturing budget.
This, according to PostProcess,
is because their products “likely require numerous processes to finish,”
necessitating the use of multiple machines as well as the cost of staff training to run them.
Surprisingly,The percentage of manufacturers employing 3D printing for prototypes declined substantially from 65 per cent to 52 per cent between 2019 and 2021, according to the firm’s report.
This could indicate a substantial shift in sentiments among the poll’s respondents, as 57 per cent indicated in 2019 that the technology would be utilized for prototyping in the following 3-5 years,
while just 44 per cent said in 2021.
Increasing End-Part Quality
In line with the wider trend of printed parts being used in ‘production-like environments,’ 76 per cent of respondents said their future investment in 3D printing would be focused on improving end part quality,
while 60 per cent said they wanted to improve the health, safety, and sustainability of their operations through post-processing.
Going forward, according to PostProcess, 32% of firms intend to boost their use of 3D printing after COVID, with the bulk of those situated in Europe. These users, who tend to be from the ‘job shop’ industry, indicated that they were most willing to purchase new PBF or vat polymerization equipment,
whereas material-jetting adopters were more hesitant.