3D printing technology can help boost profit and market share of companies in certain industries but these developments are unlikely in the next five years, according to Moody’s Investors Service.
The eyewear and footwear industries are among the manufacturers expected to have the most significant near-term growth prospects for using 3D printing technology, the rating agency said. Other industries such as aerospace, medical devices, automotive and capital equipment will also benefit from the technology which rapidly builds a three-dimensional object that can be customised at a cheap cost using a computer-aided design model.
"In certain manufacturing subsectors, companies expanding their use of 3D printing technology will eventually experience credit positive profitability and market share improvements," Moody's said.
“Despite significant momentum for corporate investments in industrial 3D printing and widespread optimism over future applications of the technology, 3D printing will not account for a significant share of manufacturing sector activity for many years.”
According to the Moody's report: “With a few exceptions, no immediate or significant credit effects are expected from the growth of 3D printing across most existing manufacturing industries and companies.”
The ratings agency said the case for replacing industrial manufacturing on a wider scale with 3D printing is not yet proven. Where scale is needed for high-production runs, the economics are better suited to using traditional processes to keep marginal costs down, the report said.
Advantageous use of the technology includes rapid prototyping, production of unique and customised items, and manufacture of parts with some structural complexity.
"For 3D printing, several factors weigh on the overall utility of the technology in high-volume production, including the high cost of printers and specialised technicians compared with alternative technologies, the frequent need for additional machining after printing and the long amount of time needed to print each," said Moody's vice president, Jonathan Siegel.
In July, Emaar Properties said it will build its first 3D-printed home in Arabian Ranches. In a global competition, the developer awarded the contract for the 3D-printed model home in Arabian Ranches III to a partnership between an international 3D printing technology company and a UAE contractor.
Emaar said 3D-printed homes bring several benefits including accelerated delivery of homes and more flexibility in design.
In March, surgeons in Dubai partnered with 3D healthcare technology company, Sinterex, to replace the jaw of a teenage girl diagnosed with an aggressive tumour. A CT scan of the patient was converted into a 3D-printed physical model, which surgeons used to develop a treatment plan. Sinterex then printed a surgical guide for the operating theatre. A titanium jaw implant, specifically tailored to the patient, was then printed and fitted.