JP Morgan has suggested that 3D printing (3DP) is the trend to watch, although the short term impact will be limited. JP Morgan analysts who visited 'the future is here' exhibition concluded that 3DP should be watched closely and suggested that mall operators should focus on gaining more 3DP store tenants.
A major factor in their analysis was the potential for 3DP to lead to a high street revival. Stores such as Staples and ASDA have already embraced some 3DP services and high end retailer Selfridges is opening a 3DP pop up shop. Tesco is also considering the use of 3DP for the manufacture of customised gifts and toys.
The research note does not suggest that mass manufacturing is anywhere close to being over but that in the longer term high streets and shopping centres will greatly benefit from a focus on bespoke products and greater efficiency gains brought by 3DP.
JP Morgan also gave a note of caution to property companies which are not provisioning for 3DP. Of all the companies asked by JP Morgan, 60 per cent believed 3DP could have an impact on the property sector but only 20 per cent believe it will impact their business model specifically and none are currently making any provisions to account for this impact.
JP Morgan's optimistic analysis on the future of 3DP is timely in the wake of the recent announcement of the application of 3DP to metal products by the European Space Agency.
The ESA unveiled plans on Tuesday for the the Amaze project. Involving 28 institutions, Amaze will aim to bring 3DP into the "metal age" by printing metal parts that are lighter, stronger and cheaper. These parts will be used for planes, cars, satellites and rockets.
ESA's head of new materials and energy research, David Jarvis, said:
We want to build the best quality metal products ever made. Objects you can't possibly manufacture any other way.