Keywords: Additive Manufacturing, 3D Printing, 3D Laser Scanning, Rapid Prototyping, Healthcare, Medical Products, Mass Customization, Prosthetics, Hearing Aids, Eyeglasses.
Since ARC Advisory Group initiated coverage on additive manufactur-ing/3D printing several years ago, the industry has continued to grow and evolve. The "cool factor" of additive has attracted a cascade of media attention.
In this Insight, ARC continues its coverage of this new manufacturing paradigm through case studies on medical/health-related products, specifically hearing aids, prosthetics, and eyeglasses. The first two are early-adopter applications for additive manufacturing, while most additive activity for the latter still occurs on an R&D level. Through these examples, ARC hopes to highlight the rationale for shifting existing production modes to additive processes.
It is hard to read a technology periodical these days without finding a reference to additive. Additive manufacturing and its more media-friendly synonym, "3D printing," are everywhere and the technology has spawned a new breed of innovators. Some leverage 3D printing because it may be a more efficient way to fabricate something, others simply use it because they can. This leads to a potpourri of 3D: 3D-printed food, houses, drones, guitars, sex toys, guns, even a prosthetic for a one-legged duck.
A number of additive naysayers have opposed this evangelism. The president of one large Chinese electronics manufacturer, for example, recently labeled 3D printing as a "gimmick," and claimed he would write his own name backwards if 3D printing could fulfill everything it is hyped up to be.
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