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Insurers must adapt to keep pace with wider 3-D adoption

Posted On: Sep. 4, 2017 12:00 AM CST

In September 2015, Alcoa Inc. announced plans to spend $60 million to expand a research and development center to include the development of methods and materials for additive manufacturing — 3-D printing.

“Alcoa is investing in the next generation of 3-D printing for aerospace and beyond,” the company’s former chairman and CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld, said in a statement at the time.

Fort Collins, Colorado-based consultancy Wohlers Associates Inc., which tracks the growth of the 3-D printing sector, said that investment is important for the growth of 3-D printing. The firm’s 2017 report showed that the additive manufacturing industry has continued to grow over the past seven years after a decline in 2009.

“A lot of new technology at the entry point is usually priced very high, and as the technology develops and evolves, the price usually does come down,” said William Mauro, director of commercial casualty, product development at ISO, a unit of Verisk Analytics Inc. in Jersey City, New Jersey. “I think we’re seeing that effect inside the 3-D printer now, which will lead to more widespread adoption, which I think makes this relevant for the insurance industry. Because when one company uses a 3-D printer to do something, that’s one; when 1 million do it, that’s a different story.”

Bob Weireter, New York-based senior treaty underwriter and vice president at Swiss Re Ltd., said “underwriters need to follow the technology and ask more questions.”

“Claims professionals need to recognize when a loss may be attributed, in whole or in part, to a 3-D printing application, to provide this feedback to underwriters,” he said. “Risk engineers need to keep up with emerging developments and uses for this technology and notify underwriters.”