3D printing has been talked about for several years. Numerous use cases have demonstrated its added value. However, it has not yet drastically transformed the way we produce. Will the Covid-19 pandemic speed up a process that has already started? This element on which it is interesting to look, we saw that to respond to a shortage of medical equipment, the APHP backed by the Koering group and with the involvement of the Start-up Bone 3D to set up 60 3D printer to produce the parts needed for respirators, but not only (Usine Digitale)
What changes to come?
Will this mobilization of new technology see a new path for industrial processes at the end of the crisis? Will this health crisis be the accelerator of preexisting trends as claimed by a number of economists? It would be presumptuous to assert this conclusively, however we can state a number of advantages that would represent the generalization of these production technologies in the various industrial sectors where this is possible …
Over the past decade, as this very interesting article from Futura tech, many use cases have shown the great potentials of 3D printing:
- Construction of a Inox Bridge by 3D printing in Amsterdam
- Building a House in a short time.
- Ship building
- And let’s not forget 3D printing in the medical field like prothesis, orthesis, or even organ such as skin, or many other applications
As we can see, these technologies open up real prospects and will undoubtedly change the way we think about the production of a certain number of consumer goods and equipment. Like any transformation, this will lead to forms of resistance from established companies and industries which will not wish to see their market share reduced. But this will not be the only obstacle, indeed for a new sector to be born and mature, it will have to be able to find the pool of new skills needed …
Who are the French and / or European players in 3D printing?
In front of the impressive opportunities offered by 3D printing, let’s try to understand who are the national start-up or industrial players who are looking to bring out this new way of producing. Let’s take the different sectors in which we already have solid use cases. This overview will not be exhaustive, but it will already allow us to get a good idea of our national players.
In the field of health we have always had a high level of research which has made it possible to develop reference medical techniques. It is therefore not surprising to find beautiful, promising nuggets in medical 3D printing. So we have as mentioned during the introduction of the Start-up Bone 3D, but it’s not the only one we have Poetis in the area of skin printing, we have Bionico Hand for prostheses (here is an ‘open source’ vision), there is also Osseomatrix which offers 3D prints for bone reconstruction, we also have suppliers of 3D printers like Dagoma3D which provides 3D printers for the medical community. We also have French society Prodways which offers various 3D printing services, particularly in the dental field.
We have here as an example the Start-up Batiprint3D which offers the Yhnova house, or Machine3D or XtreeE of French companies offering solutions in the building but not only (Tracktor.fr). The advantages of these technologies can be varied depending on the choices made on the basic materials, for example. There are undeniable time savings, the possibility of proposing architectures based on curves in a much easier way, ecological gains, indeed the right quantity in the right place for a mechanical and structural efficiency equivalent to conventional processes, but also with less greedy human resources…
The naval, automotive and aeronautical industry
In the field of industry, there too things started to move, for example the French consulting company Altran went to the (minority) capital of the Start-up Divergent®(Le point) who did the 3D printing of the Blade car. This shows the interest of these technologies for the sector … If in the automotive sector, I have not found a major French player, we can console ourselves by the existence of European players like ADWorks German company, or Dutch company MX3D.
In the aeronautics sector we have several emblematic cases, including this one of naval aviation, however conservative, which shyly launches in the manufacture of parts within the framework of the maintenance of the fleet of Rafale Marine aboard the Charles De Gaulle: projet Ravel lead by Dassault Aviation.
The Prodways Group that we mentioned in the medical field also offers industrial printers intended for the aeronautical field, with recently the delivery of 3 imprimantes additional for an actor not mentioned …
The naval sector is not to be outdone, we have a business Perspective Design who has already produced the minisprint, a small sailboat completely made of recycled material by 3D printing. In this sector, we also Scuplteo which offers models or prototypes for the naval industry. But we also have a major player in our naval industry that uses additive manufacturing, it’s Naval Group (3DNatives).
So we see that this technology is starting to take an increasingly strategic place in our industrial processes and brings real flexibility and undeniable advantages …
3D printing is still a technology in the making, but the use cases are multiplying and we see the many advantages that manufacturing can have. Indeed, the use of the right amount of material in the right place, allows to have parts which for the same mechanical resistance will be lighter and less greedy in raw material. The ability to print on demand makes it possible to consider having small production units located close to the need, and to limit the need to store spare parts.
All of these factors can have a significant environmental impact in industrial processes, moreover this technology can allow us to revert to a philosophy allowing repair rather than replacement. To encourage this last point, it will probably be necessary to propose suitable legislation to force product producers to provide 3D plans of the most fragile parts and the most likely to drop …
Hopefully the current crisis will allow us to rethink the way we produce and consume (repair rather than throw away), we could imagine the appearance of 3D Shops as there were once reprography shops. We are also fortunate to have beautiful companies and start-ups in this field, use them to transform our economic fabric. What do you think ?
Author comments: This article has been translated, the references remain mainly French article