Additive manufacturing (AM)—known also as “3D printing”—has exploded into public consciousness over the past several years. Stories and perspectives seem to appear in the popular press and technology blogs on a near daily basis. Enthusiasts tout the prospect for AM to revolutionize manufacturing industries and the markets they serve, while skeptics point to the relatively limited number of applications and materials in current use. While the reality of AM likely rests somewhere between these two views, there can be little doubt that the technology is enjoying an increasing deployment across sectors—both within manufacturing and beyond—and throughout all phases of the value chain.This article provides an overview of AM—its technologies, processes and end-market applications. In addition, we touch upon a number of strategic challenges that companies should consider as they integrate AM into their value propositions. We also offer a strategic framework that may help companies understand how this set of technologies and processes increases flexibility and reduces the capital required to achieve greater scope and economies of scale.
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