The manufacturing industry is facing an imperative to innovate or perish, and 4D printing and other new printer technology is paving the way to critical digital transformation. As a result, today’s most successful industrial manufacturers are embracing the future of printing to create better customer outcomes and products in the fourth industrial revolution.
In fact, 72 percent of manufacturers are making dramatic shifts toward the digital, according to a recent PwC study. And the most advanced are already utilizing cutting-edge print tech for lower costs, faster delivery, and more personalized customer experiences.
3 new printing innovations for manufacturers
Prepare to be shocked if you think print innovation has slowed or stagnated, as 4D printing applications and other emerging technologies are changing what’s possible for manufacturing. We’re officially living in the age of printed cities, as today’s 3D printing cranes can lay 2,153 square feet of concrete per day. Cutting-edge print tech will undoubtedly help manufacturers change the face of industries and build new business models in the following ways in this new industrial age.
1. 4D print transforms what’s possible
4D printing is like its 3D counterpart, but it’s smarter and more dynamic. The process typically involves the use of specialized materials to 3D print objects that can “self assemble and transform based on external stimuli,” says Chief Disruptor Andrew Bolwell. A 4D-printed object isn’t “done” once it leaves the production stage—it often has the ability to transform to fit real-world scenarios. Researchers are actively testing several applications for this tech in the fields of defense, consumer goods, and healthcare, including:
- Athletic footwear that can adapt to different sports and activities
- Smart jet wings that morph to decrease wind resistance mid-flight
- Airway splints that grow with pediatric patients
- Combat uniforms that can react to protect against shrapnel or chemical attacks
These and other 4D printing applications are set to open doors to printing orders that can self-assemble or react to dynamic conditions, and this technology is likely closer than you think—Digitalist Mag predicts we’re just five years from large-scale enterprise adoption.
2. 3D print reaches maturity
3D printing has long had remarkable potential for additive manufacturing and one-to-one production. However, the technology’s earliest iterations had real limitations, including high costs and slow speeds. But high-volume production is now both possible and practical with mature 3D print tech, like the HP Multi Jet Fusion. Manufacturing customers can skip lengthy wait times and immediately hit production, says Corey Weber, CEO of Forecast 3D. Customers can also retool orders in real-time by simply submitting a new file.
The maturation of 3D printing (and soon, 4D) is helping manufacturers create a full range of products, from simple trinkets to human organs faster and at a lower cost. Manufacturers can even look to produce detailed items that previously required the talents of artists, specialists, and skilled laborers due to the precision of this technology.
3. Managed print services
Meeting customer expectations in the fourth industrial age requires organizational agility. Manufacturers must rise to meet rising pressures to cut costs without sacrificing security, mobility, or customer transparency. Moving toward more agile hardware models can enable digitized workflows and speed the adoption of emerging tech and new 4D printing applications.
Managed print services (MPS) for manufacturing can enable greater agility with solutions for 3D and 4D printing, end-to-end workflow management, and increased security and mobility. MPS releases manufacturers from the burden of device updates and endpoint security and allows industrial manufacturers to embrace digitization at the speed of innovation—imagine having the time to pursue other next-gen solutions, like the HP Z VR backpack, which allows users to manipulate and navigate virtual objects and environments in 3D space.
Redefining what’s possible
Anyone who tells you that new printer technology isn’t pushing the boundaries of manufacturing hasn’t been paying attention—3D, 4D, and fully managed printing solutions are now stepping from the pages of sci-fi literature and onto a factory floor near you. If you can secure the buy-in from your organization’s leadership, becoming an early adopter of this tech could pay off in a big way for your company’s image and bottom line.