Supply chain
3D printing software apps to help drive digital transformation
Max Wang, Taipei; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES

In line with the advent of the era of going digital fully, "maker and innovation" will become a new driver for the next wave of industrial revolution after Industry 4.0, and 3D software designers can help makers realize innovations more systematically and efficiently via incorporation of new technologies and establishment of app marketplace.

But further refinement of 3D printing technology and reduction of application cost are crucial for determining whether the "maker" era can really come.

In addition, changes in spending behavior of young consumers and their consuming preferences have driven qualitative changes of the entire manufacturing system. As Dassault Systemes has indicated, young consumers now boast much deeper understanding of products they purchase amid the increasingly close integration of digitalization and reality, and are able to easily define new products and catch up with the latest development trends.

For manufacturers, how to secure a balance between profitability and quality and how to reallocate resources for product design and development and smooth commercial production process, so as to shorten the time to market and offer better customization services, has become a crucial task for them to pursue digital transformation.

3D Experience platform

In order to brace for the arrival of digital transformation and experience economy, software providers have developed multiple updates of their existing design software platforms. Dassault Systemes, for instance, has incorporated VR (virtual reality) applications into its 3D Experience platform, so that the platform can better integrate diverse design and product life cycle management platforms operated by the company. US-based software developer PTC has also incorporated AR (augmented reality) and industrial IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to provide users with more convenient and appropriate design and management platforms.

Accordingly, 3D design software functions have expanded significantly along with continued optimization of the software and incorporation of simulation, data visualization, AR, VR, and IoT functions. This will further pave the way for "makers" to develop and design innovative products.

To satisfy the needs in the design and production process at a faster pace, 3D design software providers have raced to set up marketplaces for apps under their own platforms, seeking to break through the last mile for developers and "makers" to achieve fast product design and production through the support of third-party partners.

Expanded 3D printing applications

Undeniably, thanks to upgrades in printing speed and precision, the availability of printing materials and the reduction of overall printing costs, the application of 3D printing can be expanded to volume production of specific parts and components such as those for automobile and aerospace industries. Breakthroughs seen in 3D color and metal printing technologies have also helped broaden the overall application range of 3D printing.

Nevertheless, it will still take time for 3D printing to be incorporated for volume production, and those firms who can develop innovations in printing materials, technologies and printer performance are likely to become winners in the market.

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