Last year, global events and the cost of living crisis prompted manufacturers – both large and small – across various industries to reconsider their centralized production models. An increasing number of companies are integrating technologies like additive manufacturing (AM) into their factory floor operations to work alongside traditional processes, enabling them to bring products to market more quickly.
Cost-effective prototyping and on-demand manufacturing using AM are helping non-corporate businesses become more competitive, flexible, and agile. This article will explore the numerous advantages of AM for SMEs, addressing the sector’s current appetite for this manufacturing method and making predictions for the year ahead.
**Advantages of Additive Manufacturing for SMEs**
Additive manufacturing is transforming the processes of design cycles and production for SMEs, making them more competitive, flexible, and agile. It allows for the creation of cost-effective designs, prototypes, and robust end-use parts, resulting in shorter lead times. This is particularly beneficial for SMEs dealing with urgent projects or responding to dynamic market demands. For example, a Birmingham-based provider of specialist equipment has used AM to circumvent supply chain delays and customize their designs, ultimately improving their products.
**Trend of Personalized and On-Demand Manufacturing**
Onshore production and localized manufacturing practices are providing businesses greater flexibility, responsiveness, and resilience. More designers, engineers, and manufacturers are adopting AM to customize the parts, tools, and products they need, leading to reduced transportation costs, environmental impact, and product lead time.
**Advancements in Additive Manufacturing**
Advances in connected AM platforms have enabled machines to collect and learn from information with each build. This is fueling better design, performance, and problem-solving for SMEs. In the coming year, we can expect further integration of data-driven technologies to enhance the quality, reliability, and efficiency of the AM process and products.
**Sustainability and ESG**
As the global temperature continues to rise, there will be growing pressure on governments and businesses to address environmental and social responsibility. AM’s role in local and on-demand manufacturing can help reduce waste, energy consumption, and shipping, contributing to a more sustainable manufacturing process.
In 2024, we anticipate seeing additive technology increasingly at work on factory floors around the world, driving innovation and efficiency.
*By Gesa Schneider, Central European Manager, [Markforged](https://markforged.com/)*