Africa started to deploy 3D printing over a decade ago and today there is even bigger potential for additive manufacturing on the continent. The rise in 3D printing also means that there is greater demand for customization, meaning that manufacturers will need to produce personalized products on a mass scale at competitive prices.

Nine out of 10 global respondents (91%) in the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report noted that they would pursue mass customization if they could personalize parts via 3D printing. Case in point – SmileDirectClub is digitally transforming the $12 billion orthodontics industry using 3D printing to print dental aligners and Cobra Golf is disrupting the sports industry by building on a rapid shift toward product personalization to produce a first of its kind 3D printed commercial putter.

Bradley Pulford, VP and MD of HP Africa gives his predictions on the development of the digital manufacturing sector in 2021.

  1. Uptake of Software and Data Innovations to Improve Productivity

There will be an uptick in new software innovations that provide manufacturers with the tools and infrastructure to enable digital manufacturing at scale, leading to greater productivity. Advancements in software and data management will continue to drive improved system management and part quality leading to better customer outcomes.

Fifty-five percent of global respondents in the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report reported that “accelerated innovation” will see the most advancement over the next five years, followed by 52% who said quality management will advance data and software and 50% who agreed data and software will enhance design for additive capabilities.

2. Significant Economic Growth to Support Entire Ecosystems

We’ll also see significant interest in digital manufacturing technologies across regions when it comes to economic growth, and it’s no surprise why: Manufacturing is the engine that supports entire economies and ecosystems.

Nearly all global respondents (99%) of the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report believe that digital manufacturing technologies can lead to economic growth. Manufacturers are backing this belief with their budgets with nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents planning to invest in digital manufacturing technologies by the middle of 2021, and 85% indicating their company is planning to increase its spending on 3D printing.

3. Forming Alliances for Cross-Sector Collaboration and Training

To continue advancing the industry and grow the population of practitioners, digital manufacturers must offer more professional training to more workers – and collaboration is fundamental to 3D printing. As companies look to deliver more value to end companies, they will form new alliances and operate within new ecosystems.

Two-thirds of the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report’s global respondents (64%) said more professional training services should be offered to further 3D printing. Additionally, cross-sector collaboration is critical to the future of digital manufacturing, according to 85% of respondents.

4. Increased Sustainability to Drive Business Operations

Sustainability continues to be a key metric for business operations. As small businesses, governments and large enterprises increasingly assess and track their environmental impact, digital manufacturing is expected to play a key role.

Half (50%) of the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report global respondents indicated 3D printing’s ability to reduce waste, lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and promote a circular economy. In addition, 3D printing enables localized manufacturing, helping reduce the complexity and environmental impact of supply chains.

5. Innovation Will Flourish from New Materials and Tools

When it comes to new materials and tooling capabilities, 3D printing not only is a more precise mechanism, but it also supports designs and structures that are complex and customized, making fabrication seamless. From reduced costs to improved functionality, new tools are a promising source of innovation that will continue to grow in popularity in 2021.

According to the HP Digital Manufacturing Trends Report, heat-activated 4D printed parts, in particular, will show the most innovation and advancement in 3D printing over the next 5 years. Nearly half (48%) of global respondents say these “smart” parts have the most potential for advancement among 3D printing technologies. 


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