Dr Vladimir Navrotsky, head of technology and innovation at Siemens Energy Service, Oil & Gas and Industrial Applications, said new developments are in the wind relating to the mediums that can be used to build items with 3D printing - or in Siemens speak "additive manufacturing".
Dr Navrotsky, who recently visited Australia to participate in a Digitalisation Forum organised by Siemens and Engineers Australia, said the technology itself was also undergoing significant growth.
He sees a future for additive manufacturing for a number of industries, but in particular the energy sector, where Siemens is already creating major breakthroughs.
"We strongly believe that additive manufacturing is a game-changer, and in general it creates an evolution in the area of the design, manufacturing and repair of new components," Dr Navrotsky recently told an industry gathering.
He said Siemens had focused so much on additive manufacturing and hds become a pioneer in the area due to the significant improvements that can be achieved in the reduction in lead-times and life-times in manufacturing and repair of specific components.
"At the same time, we are capable of improving the functionality of the components, and then improve their efficiency," he said.
He said there were a number of key strategies to making the technology more acceptable and its use more widespread.
"We need to improve the productivity of the equipment; we need to get the cost of powder down; and we need to establish the culture of additive manufacturing design -it will come, and there will be a significant cost reduction in the future," he said.
"We believe that with this technology, the cost of the component could be reduced up to 50%, 70%."
The other big breakthrough in the increased implementation of additive manufacturing is the speed at which objects can be made.
Dr Navrotsky said Siemens had made some significant breakthroughs in this area by accelerating the validation and design process for manufacturing and repair activities.
"The numbers tell us that the reduction of time in the component manufacturing or repair could be up to 90%," he said.
"This means that you can really do a lot of pieces at the same time, with higher quality, higher functionality, and in the future with lower cost."
More breakthroughs are coming in the additive manufacturing technology and the mediums that are being used.
Siemens is particularly focusing on laser sintering - an extremely accurate, laser-guided technology which allows components to be built directly from a 3D model, layer by layer.
The aim is to build robust components that may be taken straight from the printer and, for example, be placed straight into an engine or a gas turbine for operation.
In the Siemens energy sector, things have almost reached this stage in the Swedish town of Finspong, where laser sintering is already being used in building and repairing gas turbine components.
The other big breakthrough that laser sintering is bringing is its capacity to process different metals, including nickel-based superalloys such as Hastelloy-X, which can withstand the high temperatures that equipment like gas turbine burners are exposed.
"In the new design of the alloys we are working with particles, and by mixing the particles, by controlling the chemical composition, we can design the material," Dr Navrotsky said.
"This means this technology allows us to consider the design of the component, consider the design of the material, consider the design of application."
With this technology, there no limitation on the design, so "you can put into the metal whatever you can", so much so that its designers are already thinking: "If you can dream, then you can print it."
Siemens already uses 3D printing for its Tonsley South Australia Energy Service Centre, where it can repair parts that otherwise would be too complex and costly for one-off production, like engine impellers.
For the energy industry, and the oil and gas sector in particular, the ‘holy grail' for the future use of 3D printing would be the capability to be able to quickly replace a damaged component.
For example, the potential cost and time savings that could be made by replicating a broken part on an offshore platform, or remote gas plant or onshore field, would have game changing implications.
Siemens has already made giant strides in this area. With the additive manufacturing technology of selective laser melting, Siemens is repairing parts for industrial gas turbines up to 60% faster and with full freedom of design possibilities.
To date that type of development has been held up by the types of mediums that can be used to build an object, the cost and the time it takes to build a replacement part and the ability to have the 3D printing technology near site.
Having made breakthroughs in cost, speed of manufacturing and materials, Siemens is now investigating options for making the technology readily available - with Australia a potential test site.
"We are considering this container design, where our equipment would be placed in Australia, in the workshop somewhere at Siemens, one, two, three, five - however many installations we need - and we can print it here," Dr Navrotsky said.
"So the geometry will be developed at headquarters, it will be transmitted via internet to site, powder will be shipped, and we can print it on site.
"With this technology, we can realise our concept: spare parts on demand. We can realise and support, with this powerful tool, our main strategy - originalisation, which means to be closer to the customer.
"Additive manufacturing opens up completely new horizons for customer service."