From sustainability to automated post-processing

On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, Materialise not only looks back on an eventful history, but at the start of the year also presents the trends and themes which, in the view of the Belgian company, »drive and define our industry in 2020«.

2019/12/30 - The first topic is sustainability, which is also becoming increasingly important in 3D printing. One reason for this is the stronger presence of multinational companies with a growing influence and responsibility in the industry. At the same time, according to Materialise, additive manufacturing is increasingly perceived as a positive force that helps companies operate more sustainably. Examples of this are decentralized local production with short delivery routes improved people’s health through personalized care and the resource-saving use of energy and materials.

With uncertain economic times ahead offers economic opportunities. As we face uncertain economic times, »we believe more manufacturers will turn to 3D printing as a tool to reduce costs and mitigate risks«, the company says.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a promising and incredibly powerful tool to digest large datasets and create actionable insights. But this requires not only large data-sets but also a deep understanding of processes. »Today, there are certainly instances where AI helps to advance 3D printing,« says Stefaan Motte, Vice President and General Manager Software. »But before we can truly adopt AI in AM, we need to work on developing better insights and get a better understanding of the many parameters and algorithms that define the 3D printing process. This will require continued investments in research and innovation and cross-industry collaboration.«

new climate of innovation

Faster machines, new materials, and more finishing options are creating an exciting new climate of innovation. In previous years, consumers may not have known or cared about the manufacturing process behind their product of choice. Now, with increased performance, aesthetics, and active participation in the personalization process, 3D printing is about to get real. In 2020, and beyond, people will discover and enjoy products they never imagined before.

As companies scale their 3D printing operations, they increasingly rely on automation. But the potential to scale is limited by post processing, which today is still mostly a manual process. »We believe that the time for automating post-processing is now,« says Bart Van der Schueren, CTO. »At Materialise we’ve been heavily investing in these processes. An example of our recent commitment to automation is that we robotized our entire cleaning line in our medical production to ensure the highest possible quality standards.«