3D printing and Industry 4.0: what’s the state of play?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is set to grow in the coming years as it plays a key role in the future of the global manufacturing industry. So, what does that mean for Industry 4.0 and how have countries like Turkey leveraged 3D printing to bolster their economy?

3D printing is more than just a trendy buzzword in the innovation world. In the industrial context, 3D printing or additive manufacturing involves the use of computer-aided design (CAD) software that instructs hardware to deposit materials layer by layer to create a final product; a seemingly straightforward technology that has the potential to transform entire industries.

Interestingly, the use of 3D printing as a manufacturing tool is not new – its roots can be traced back to Japan in the 1980s, yet the usage of 3D printing across industries has really only grown considerably in the last decade or so.

Increasing connectivity across the globe during that time has allowed manufacturers to share 3D ideas, technologies and printing templates more widely, accelerating the development of the industry as a whole.

For example, in 2014, an object was 3D printed in space for the first time, and there have been several advancements to the technology that will see 3D printing speed up by 10 times or more.

Recent reports suggest that the additive manufacturing market will experience even more rapid growth within the next few years, with one report predicting a compound annual growth rate of 20.8% from 2022 to 2030.

Another report put the 3D printing market’s value at US$15.1 billion in 2021 and highlighted further potential growth of 24% by 2026, reaching a staggering US$44.5 billion.

The immense growth potential of 3D printing is in part fuelled by its practical application in solving real-world problems. For instance, during the recent pandemic, 3D printing helped some manufacturers overcome the supply chain and logistical challenges that resulted from lockdowns and border closures.

With additive manufacturing, manufacturers were able to become gradually less reliant on their traditional supply chains, and deliver more cost savings and reliability, better protect intellectual property and more.

Given its increasing importance in the future transition of the global manufacturing industry, here we take a deeper look at how additive manufacturing can play an even bigger role in Industry 4.0 going forward, and how countries like Turkey have already established comprehensive plans to utilise 3D printing to boost several of its industries.

Synergising additive manufacturing with Industry 4.0

The proliferation of technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics and automation used to drive Industry 4.0 has resulted in the transformation of manufacturing worldwide.

Consequently, additive manufacturing can become more efficient, productive and ecologically friendly thanks to these smart technologies, as they can synergise and take manufacturing to greater heights.

With additive manufacturing already integrated into various industries within the manufacturing sector, further implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies will become easier thanks to lower costs and faster production.

To help industries become Industry 4.0-ready, a neutral benchmarking tool like the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI) is highly beneficial as companies and government and industry bodies will be able to access useful information and tools to identify gaps within their industrial development roadmap.

Through the SIRI framework, manufacturing facilities can draw on various evaluation models and an Assessment Matrix to gain a better understanding of the current state of their factories and plants.

This provides a clearer view of areas that can be improved and prioritised to get closer to a successful Industry 4.0 transformation.

With the help of a tool like SIRI, countries and industries can speed up their industrial digital transformation and get one step closer to achieving operational excellence.

Turkey significantly invests in 3D printing as part of its future

Turkey is a fascinating case study of how nations around the globe are investing in 3D printing as part of future-proofing and transformation. In 2019, Turkey revealed its Eleventh Development Plan, designed as a “development vision of [Turkey] with a long-term perspective”.

This plan provides a basic development framework aimed at transforming Turkey’s “economic structure, to maintain stability and sustainability in the long-term”.

Part of the plan involves the enhancement of the country’s R&D and innovation capacities to keep pace with digital transformation initiatives happening globally, and 3D printing has been recognised as one of the critical technologies within the country’s technology roadmap to help it stay competitive.

Turkey’s journey with additive manufacturing didn’t only begin with the Eleventh Development Plan though. As early as 2014, the republic utilised 3D printing in numerous industries like automotive, aerospace and defence, medical and more.

And by 2020, Turkey’s additive manufacturing market had already grown to account for 1.3% of the global industry, with a market size of around US$300 million.

Today, Turkey continues to charge forward by continuing to significantly invest into 3D printing. Earlier this year, Turkey’s defence and aerospace industry was given a boost when Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) acquired the world’s largest electron beam directed energy desposition 3D printer, allowing TAI to 3D print some of the largest titanium aerostructures in the world.

This is a noteworthy instance in the sector’s history and will not only help Turkey in the “development, modernisation, manufacture, system integration and lifecycle support of the aviation and space industry systems”, as TAI puts it, but also reduce reliance on foreign manufacturing.

Over 500 3D printers are already in use in Turkey’s manufacturing industry, and the number is expected to rise due to growing demand for advanced equipment, software, printing materials and large-scale additive manufacturing capabilities in the nation.

Other countries like China, Australia and the ASEAN region are watching the development of 3D printing in Turkey to see how they too can advance additive manufacturing in the near future.

The future of Industry 4.0 and additive manufacturing

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and disruption of global supply chains, it has become clear that additive manufacturing can act as a springboard to aid digital transformation and improve agility.

This improved flexibility was seen in the early days of the pandemic when 3D printing was able to meet an urgent demand for respirator valves – something that traditional manufacturing was unable to achieve.

The pandemic also prompted many companies to focus on supply chain resilience as they look to combat supply chain disruptions, increasing inflation and rising costs.

By aligning Industry 4.0 and additive manufacturing capabilities, companies can expect to see a reduction in production costs thanks to in-house production, and a smaller carbon footprint due to more intelligent manufacturing and the use of sustainable raw materials.

On a broader scale, 3D printing could help global manufacturing become more productive, environmentally friendly and more sustainable.

In the case of Turkey, the increasing adoption of additive manufacturing will continue to bolster the broader industry.

And with industry frameworks and benchmarking tools like SIRI facilitating Industry 4.0, Turkey is in an excellent position to achieve the rest of its goals outlined in the Eleventh Development Plan and beyond. It is a country to watch.

Design an effective transformation journey for success

As a champion of Industry 4.0 adoption, the International Centre for Industrial Transformation (INCIT) has both the tools and the reach to provide support to countries like Turkey and manufacturers globally as they prepare to ramp up their Industry 4.0 efforts.

To learn more about how you can design your transformation journey with success, contact us for more information.