According to a report earlier this year from Smithers Pira, the worldwide 3D printer market will be worth $5.9 billion this year and is forecast to rise to a staggering $49.1 billion within 10 years.
Rüdiger Theobald, marketing director at Verbatim, said a third of packaging companies are using 3D printing and twice that number said they planned to use it within the next couple of years.
Much of the interest in 3D printing in the packaging industry centres on the ability of the technology to produce highly accurate, highly realistic concepts or prototypes for presentation to customers.
He added that packaging manufacturers have reported prospective customer’s amazement when using 3D printing they have managed to turn a concept into a part in days.
Additionally, he said 3D printing is widely used for prototyping packaging parts that would otherwise require injection moulding, thermoforming or blow moulding.
“Today, 3D printing technology is not at a stage where it can compete with traditional manufacturing processes in the production of high volumes of packaging. It’s not out of the question, though, that one day it might be.”
With moves to shorter runs of more personalised and custom products built to order, Theobald said the packaging industry needs to be prepared, and 3D printing looks likely to have a significant role to play.