Chemical companies are responding by developing and introducing materials in partnership with established 3D printing players. “I see here a possibility for chemicals to dig in deep,” Frank said. “If you can produce lightweight polymer to substitute any sort of metal, that’s a huge advantage.”
Custom demand is driving the sector in the right direction, Frank said, and 3D printing offers a chance to combine new business and operating models through collaboration with the tool manufacturer.
“Everyone is specializing,” Frank said. “Let’s say the printer producer wants to sell the printer and the material comes along with it. It’s a win-win situation. The chemical industry needs to position themselves so that they’re also in the lead in that space, not only the tool manufacturers.”
Frank looks with strong optimism to the next chapter in 3D printing for chemical companies. “The growth rate of 3D printing in the last 10 years is phenomenal,” he says. “The market is exploding. Even as predictions say that the manufacturing industry will be investing heavily in 3D printing capabilities over the next five years, I would say in 2020 or beyond we would sit here again and realize that our strong predictions were even too short.”
“In the future, we will see more commercialization in the sense that we have service providers running huge 3D printing farms that operate at airports, at train stations and on the web,” Frank continued. “Spare parts are used immediately at the chemical plant itself for the repair station. We will see that done by a company itself or by a third-party service provider, who are specializing more and more in that direction.”