There have been false dawns before, but this technology is poised to deliver cost benefits and to advance innovation in manufacturing.

Much will depend on when and how quickly overall printing costs fall, a development that should narrow the still-yawning gap between the cost of new and traditional manufacturing methods. In sintering-based 3-D printing technologies,3 3.For instance, electron beam melting (EBM), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS). These additive-manufacturing approaches are arguably more relevant for manufacturing than filament extrusion (known as FDM) or inkjet techniques. For example, there are two major expense categories. The machines and their maintenance typically account for 40 to 60 percent of total printing costs. The materials used in the manufacturing process can account for 20 to 30 percent when using common materials such as aluminum, or 50 to 80 percent when printing with exotic materials such as titanium. Labor and energy make up the rest.