3D printing unlocks new design and manufacturing use cases across industries, says GlobalData


As industry 4.0 evolves, 3D printing has emerged as one of the key enabling technologies driving advancements across industries.

The 3D printing industry is unlocking new use cases in production, planning & design and R&D by enabling industries to flexibly work with numerous plan selections in terms of design complexities, easy replication and design modifications of prototypes, says GlobalData, the data and analytics company.

Manish Dixit, Principal Disruptive Tech Analyst at GlobalData, says: “The blend of hardware, software and materials innovation is now enabling organizations of every size to evaluate the potential use of 3D printing within a blended manufacturing model driven by the buy, build and partnership model.”

The Tech Theme Investment Intensity database of GlobaData’s Disruptor Intelligence Center tracks the adoption of digital technologies across 16 major industries. A recent analysis from the database compares the top five industries in terms of the adoption of 3D printing:

Aerospace and Defense (ADS):

Northrop Grumman is leveraging 3D printing to produce end-use mechanical parts. The company has developed an aircraft repair kit using 3D printing technology which can modify and repair aircrafts. 3D printing reduced the need to tear down the whole area of aircraft to replace key parts saving maintenance costs by 10-100 times.

Pharma and Medical:

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, Chiari Hospital in Italy witnessed several patients requiring respirator valves. However, the use of 3D printed respirator valves from Isinnova helped the hospital overcome supply chain issues and meet urgent need for treating severely ill COVID-19 patients. The hospital also had about 100 3D respirator valves produced and supplied to it in a day, at a cost of less than one Euro each. 

Oil & Gas

Due to the nature of the operations within the oil & gas industry, several facilities, plants and rigs are situated in remote areas and transporting spare parts or maintenance crews to them is a drawn-out process. To overcome these issues, Shell employed 3D-printing technology for creating a prototype of turret buoy to decrease production time and assembling complexity. It helped the company to design the model within four weeks and helped Shell in saving approximately US$40m by identifying design and assembly flaws at an early stage.


Already taking hold of the automotive industry, 3D printing can accelerate the prototyping process of car parts and components. In addition, cars themselves can now be printed. Italian electric car company XEV and 3D printing material company Polymaker have produced what they claim is the world’s first mass-producible 3D printed electric car with more than 70% reduction of the investment cost in comparison with a traditional production process.


Greater use of 3D printing by construction firms could reduce labor costs and increase efficiency, given the speed at which an object can go from the design phase to being produced.  Amsterdam-based start-up Aectual has launched a commercial web shop for custom-made and 3D printed architectural products for the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) market. The design-to-delivery platform enables customers to access and order Aectual’s 3D printed interior design and architectural products.

Mr Dixit concludes: “As enterprises and start-ups turn to 3D printing, the technology is playing a crucial role in reducing the expenditure required to reach the minimum efficient scale for production. Furthermore, 3D printing has moved beyond the technology hype and has an increasingly prominent role by ‘democratizing’ technology into the hands of anyone who owns a 3D printer.”

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