Part three: Who’s up for a challenge? Moving additive manufacturing forward
Five barriers to adopting additive manufacturing — and how to overcome them
Read time: 4 minutes
In this third article, we examine barriers to adopting additive manufacturing and how to overcome them. Nearly all emerging technologies have barriers to mass adoption, and additive manufacturing is no different. As an emerging technology, the potential to capitalize on this market opportunity is high, with a growth rate over 20% annually.
The opportunity to deliver tremendous value is particularly high, especially in healthcare. For example, the consumer healthcare accessories industry can utilize additive manufacturing for mass customization of teeth aligners, hearing aids, orthotics and casts.
Before detailing specific barriers, it’s important to reiterate the benefits early adopters have already experienced. These include:
Lower start-up costs compared to traditional manufacturing
Faster speed to market
Lower inventory costs
So, what are the barriers, and how do you overcome them?
There are several challenges to adopting additive manufacturing, with applications across many industries, but we’ll use healthcare as an example. Knowing the hurdles and, more importantly, how to overcome them will help spur mass adoption of this technology that is already delivering proven results.
Barrier #1: Minding the skills gap
Mass adoption of any emerging technology in healthcare requires extensive expertise in the specific areas where it is being applied.
In healthcare, additive manufacturing engineers need to understand biomedical engineering with knowledge of anatomy, clinical intervention understanding, and the rules and guidelines of additive manufacturing. These engineers must have the skills to determine which of the wide range of 3D printing technologies and materials are best suited for specific projects. They need to account for financial issues related to volume requirements, output options, material processing considerations, the longevity of a program, and day-to-day operations. In addition, compliance, regulatory and legal departments will need to be involved.
Barrier #2: Building the right team
As with many new technologies, individuals with a specific skill set that incorporates everything are probably in short supply.
Consider building collaborative, cross-functional teams with the right people with skills in additive manufacturing, design for additive manufacturing (DfAM), anatomic modeling, biomedical engineering, and patient-centric design.
Also, consider outsourcing or partnering with experts in additive manufacturing services. Over time, the market for skills will mature, and finding individuals with all the right skills will be more pervasive.
See why RICOH 3D for Healthcare was awarded Best New Technology Solution - Orthopedics by MedTech Breakthrough Awards.
How can you overcome the barriers and move your additive manufacturing program forward?
Additive manufacturing has clear benefits across multiple industries for its cost and environmental advantages. Advancing additive manufacturing in healthcare has the potential to redefine the cost/benefit structure that has plagued the industry in areas including personalized implants, orthodontics, dental models, and developing artificial tissue and models of organs to improve the quality of care for specific patients.
The possibilities of saving lives and improving health are huge without the barrier of having to mass-produce products to make solutions affordable.
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