Unleashing the potential of Additive Manufacturing (AM) in Belgian industry

A report by PwC, Agoria and Sirris into Belgium’s AM ecosystem

The time to act on AM is now

Thirty years since the birth of AM, also known as 3D printing on an industrial scale, companies around the world are finally beginning to believe (and invest) in it.

Given its expected positive impact on a wide range of activities in different sectors - greater customisation ability, better fit for functionality by designing parts for specific uses, reduction of number of components and benefits to the supply chain with the introduction of a digital rather than physical inventory -, we recommend that all manufacturing companies prepare their business to grasp the opportunities of AM.

Belgium: a leader in the global AM ecosystem

Belgium has been a leading pioneer with regards to the evolution of AM with a number of early players originating in the country. As a result, we can now boast expansive know-how and expertise. While the Belgian AM ecosystem strongly believes in the technology’s potential, expecting both revenues and jobs linked to AM to grow substantially over the next three years, efforts are required if we’re to make the transition from 3D printing for (smaller) prototyping towards more industrial applications of AM for larger series of complex end products.

Survey results show that 50% of Belgian companies active in AM expect a high (>10%) growth rate in terms of revenues in the next three years, leading to an important increase in jobs linked directly to AM.

Short animation displaying various Manufacturing industries

The amount of know-how present in Belgium today, thanks to historical players in the country, is huge and must seep through to the industry

Interview Herman DeracheManaging Director, Sirris

Benefits of AM

AM unlocks new ways to enhance products, increase customer responsiveness and improve internal operations.

Product improvement

AM’s freedom of design unlocks the ability to produce new geometries and designs that weren’t possible using conventional manufacturing techniques. This feeds the creation of new pieces and products.

Printed parts can be lighter than their equivalent non-printed parts, which was the main differentiator for use cases in the Aerospace and Automotive industries, for instance.

Improved responsiveness towards customers

One main opportunity that AM brings is the ability to further evolve products/pieces quickly even after commercialisation. On-demand production can enhance client involvement, leading to faster product modification.

Improving internal processes

Design freedom can improve production by the creation of tooling that enhances or speeds up a specific production step. It can also decrease the number of  production steps required for particular pieces, thereby reducing lead time.

And it’s interesting for pieces that are too expensive for stock, but where quick local availability or speed of transport is vital, such as critical spare parts.

Main hurdles linked with AM today

Lack of awareness

Many decision makers in the Manufacturing industry still don’t yet fully understand the opportunities or added value of AM (such as customisation): when they’re confronted with a challenge, they don’t consider AM in the range of possible solutions.

Trust

As the technology isn’t completely mature, companies prefer to take a rather passive approach, waiting for the technology to offer the same guarantees and trust as traditional manufacturing technologies before they take the leap.

It’s essential for companies to trust in AM technologies’ ability to deliver consistent and perfectly reliable high-quality products. This is especially important for industries subject to very specific requirements, such as Aerospace and Automotive, where minor failures could have drastic consequences.

Cost

The cost of AM materials and printers remains relatively high (especially for metal printing) which is sometimes regarded as a threat for potential users.

The general perception is that it’s hard to be cost efficient with AM. Companies also often find it difficult to estimate the potential return on investment (ROI) or assess the complete business case for AM adoption.

Contact us

Peter Vermeire

Partner, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 049 351 8728

Johan Van der Straeten

Senior Manager, PwC Belgium

Tel: +32 47 448 4755

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