The 4D printing market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 41.17% during the forecast period 2020-2025. 4D printing is an extension of 3D printing technology which allows the customers and end-users enhanced efficiency, quality, and performance capabilities over existing manufacturing techniques. For instance, 3D printing technology is primarily used for making static structures from digital data in 3D coordinates while 4D printing technology involves changing the configuration of the printed design when exposed to the different environmental conditions. The primary aspect of the effective implementation of 4D printing technology is the material that is used in the additive manufacturing process of a particular commodity. These materials should have the ability to change there functionality and property in response to different stimuli.
The ability to provide product design freedom is expected to be the primary driver for its growing popularity.
The popularity of 4D printing is expected to grow on account of its ability to improve the overall speed of the manufacturing cycle. The technology will allow companies to print commodities that can reshape, self-assemble, and react to the changing condition. Its primary property that is mainly expected to benefit the manufacturing industries is its self-assembling ability. For instance, a commodity which is considered too big to be printed through the 3D printing technique can now be done through the 4D printing technology. There has been a significant increase in the interest and funding for the development of 4D printing. For instance, researchers from Veer Surendra Sai University, Odisha, India have developed two 4D printed prototypes of biocompatible and biodegradable materials that tend to actuate when put in hot water. Similarly, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University were recently awarded a Manufacturing Futures Initiative (MFI) award on their collaborative project “SimuLearn: Combining Machine Learning, Mechanical and Geometrical Simulation for the Inverse Design and Manufacture of Self-assembling Fiber-reinforced Composites”.
Initial Challenge: High Cost
The major challenge for 4D printing technology is the high initial cost as only a few companies are currently involved in its research and development Moreover, the development of this technology requires extremely skilled labor, apart from the sophisticated materials. The most common materials used in 4D printing are shape-memory polymers, which normally require going through five steps to make them into adaptable objects. Apart from this, hydrogels are also used however, they cannot be utilized for rigid structures. The cost of these materials is high and as such high initial investment is required for the development of 4d printing technology.
The interest of 4D printing technology in the healthcare sector is growing rapidly
The ability to program material as desired is expected to create an exhaustive list of applications. The healthcare sector, in particular, has been playing great attention in the development of 4D printing technology. 4D printing technique can enable the development of intelligent devices and implants. For instance, there is a growing requirement for the development of implants that grow as per the patient’s growth. The 4D printing technology can meet the demand of making such products by using intelligent materials because the implants manufactured can change its size and shape with time in response to changing body environment and significantly aid in effective patient treatment. Moreover, the growing investment in regenerative medicine is also expected to boost the growth of the 4D printing market in the healthcare industry.
Simultaneously, 4D printing is increasingly adopted in the aerospace and defense industry. The aerospace and defense segment is expected to hold a significant market share by the end of the forecasted period. The benefits offered by this technology such as the ability to self-repair is leading to higher research funding in order to further explore its potential and widen its application areas. Moreover, the growing pressure on the aerospace industry to suppress airline cost structure and improve fuel efficiency has been assisted by the revolution embarked upon by the 3D printing technology and is expected to further continue with the commercialization of 4D printing technology. Moreover, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) expecting 7.8 billion passengers to travel in 2036, the competition in the aerospace market is expected to increase. In fact, the backlog order has been rising steadily over the years for the major aerospace manufacturer with Airbus recently stating that the value of its backlog orders exceeds US$1 trillion. Moreover, the sub-components of aircraft have also increased as a result of the growing demand for air services and 4D printing technology could potentially reduce the cost associated with the spare parts by minimizing its use and services.
Americas is projected to hold a significant share in the market
The Americas region is expected to hold a significant market share and is further anticipated to show rapid growth over the projected period owing to the state-of-the-art infrastructure present in the region which is favorable for evolving technologies like 4D printing to gain traction. Huge investments are being funneled into the research and development of the 4D printing technology which has fueled the research activities in this sector. Recently, the American Heart Association has granted US$300,000 to the School of Engineering and Applied Science to develop 4D print technology that can print tissue to repair parts of the heart damaged by disease and heart attack. Researchers are developing and testing prototypes to test the potential applications, limitations, and risks associated with the use of this technology. Developed infrastructure in this region is expected to push the adopting of 4D printing technology into various industries like healthcare, automotive, aerospace and defense, textile, and others.