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Rapid prototyping for small production runs has become one of the fastest growing segments of the industry, with demand for such services growing by nearly 25% annually. This is due to the rise of start-up industries disrupting traditional market sectors, as well as more awareness of the speed and versatility of 3D printing and the advent of new materials and faster production times. Traditional injection moulding has not been left behind and this is being used to produce parts for established sectors who rely on short production runs of a smaller batch of parts, due to a lack of storage space and a concurrent welcome reduction in the cost of shipping. Such a manufacturing cycle has allowed injection moulding companies to optimise their machine and tooling time, as well as move to 24 hour manufacturing, if required the client.

Medical devices and other healthcare related items are some of the areas achieving strong growth, due to an ageing market and a higher amount of disposable income available for the purchase of such products. Age-related consumer electronics, such as hearing aids and electric wheelchairs have been especially popular and over 98% of hearing aids produced in the world are uing 3D printing now, achieving reductions in cost, tool time and quality.

Using 3D printing to produce parts for medical use is not new. Although due to the area being highly regulated and involving large research and development budgets, the cost reductions may not appear to be as great as in other fields. Advances in production technology are slowing being certified and regulated in order to be used in the medical arena, with one piece production and glueless parts reducing the need for advanced production techniques and improving overall product strength and longevity at a lower production cost.