As SPAR Europe advisory board member Alastair MacDonald said in his introduction to our keynotes, the 12 months since a SPAR conference last convened in Europe has seen the introduction of a significant number of game-changing technologies. These technologies, he added, are opportunities for us all to improve our processes, improve our productivity, and save cost and time on projects.
The first keynote for SPAR Europe 2014, from Valentijn De Leeuw, Vice President at ARC Advisory Group, helped to make sense of the dizzying developments that have driven our marketplace over the past year. He explained to the audience exactly what was actually happening in the 3D market over the past 12 months, and what might happen in the future.
After discussing the ways that that ARC breaks down their market segments–short range (metrology), medium range (up to 30m), and long range (over 30m)–he dug right into the other factors currently driving the market. “Cannibalization of older products, replacement of old technologies, these definitely drive growth.” Other factors included “improved ease of use and the development of hardware and software,” the growth of structured light scanning, and, interestingly enough, the synergy of 3D scanning with 3D printing. What better way to capture data to print than with a 3D scanner? He promised to return to this point later.
But he also touched on how some drivers of growth are, paradoxically, negatives for the market. Hardware price erosion, for instance, can go both ways. “As the products become cheaper, of course this opens up markets, but at the same time it slows them down.”
On top of that, there are significant market inhibitors that will likely be familiar to those of you who use laser scanning regularly. As De Leeuw said, “We believe that the 3D laser scanning market is something so new and different that it disturbs a little bit the old habits so there will be some resistance and then some adaptation before this becomes mainstream. So we see some lack of experienced users, lack of trained service providers, maybe lack of awareness in some cases.” Laser scanning may be old hat to you by now, but it is still a scary new technology to many.
But perhaps the biggest inhibitor, he says, is that “there is still progress to make in terms of workflow automation.” That is, it is still difficult to put a scan in a form with some intelligence. You might want to convert your scan data to an industrial model with objects that include reference to data like process information, repair history, or what pipes are connected to it. Improved object recognition will be crucial to improving these processes and driving the adoption of 3D technology.
He finished by identifying the key technologies we can expect to have the greatest impact on the future of the 3D laser scanning. Among them are cloud services, software as a service, the internet of things, and improved analytics. Most interesting, however, was the idea of creating a closed loop with 3D laser scanning and printing.
“I heard that the military take less and less spare parts with them when they go on missions,” he said, “actually, they scan and print an object or a spare part. Maybe that’s not true for very critical parts, such as a turbine blade, but probably we can already make a lot of spare parts on the spot.”
And it’s not out of the question that we might be able to do the same thing for more critical parts in the future, as 3D printing technology develops. I don’t have to tell you how useful that would be.
Stay tuned this week and next for more stories from SPAR Europe/ELMF.