3D printing is one of the promising technologies that have the potential to transform mainstream manufacturing. It provides flexibility in the manufacturing of complex geometries at competitive prices and within a low production time. 3D printing is fast gaining traction among various industries. The burgeoning adoption of industrial revolution 4.0 is one of the major factors that is boosting the 3D printing market growth. Competitive pressure and ever-evolving business model are compelling companies to shrink development cycles and move in the right direction with speed and agility. As a result, 3D printing is transforming manufacturing and providing flexibility, customization, time-to-market, distributed manufacturing and much more.
Key Trends in 2019:
1) Burgeoning focus on innovative application
Until now, 3D Printing was limited to prototyping, but now it is being used for spare parts, tools, and bridge production. With application-specific 3D printing truly taking off these days, more and more companies are introducing printers, software, and materials aimed at individual use cases for targeted solutions that are innovative. For instance, Adidas utilized 3D printing technology to make plastic midsoles for the shoes and planned to introduce 100,000 pairs of shoes, by the end of 2018. Also, Singapore-based Structo closed its latest funding round backed by government-linked investor EDBI with an aim to launch automated dental 3D printing technology.
2) Investments drive a new wave of industrial 3D printing
Manufacturing corporates have been pouring funding in the areas of advanced materials from the past few years. Major players like GE and Siemens are continuously looking beyond their R&D and patent portfolios to gain an edge in the 3D printing space. Active players in industrial 3D printing space include GE, Siemens, Autodesk, 3D Systems, and KDT among others. As a result, they have invested in a number of start-ups to propel industrial 3D printing industry growth. Start-ups like Desktop Metal are increasingly backed with corporate funding. For instance, in January 2019, Desktop Metal closed a funding round of $160 million, led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT) to advance the global commercialization of its metal 3D printing technology.
3) Wider adoption of software
3D printing software is an essential tool for the designing and manufacturing of 3D printed models. Software not only enables the users to create and prepare the model for printing but also allow for pre-printing repair and provide control over the production process. The previous year saw a rising awareness of the importance of software in various aspects of the additive manufacturing process. Also, the demand for a user-friendly software interface facilitated the wider adoption of software among the industries. User interface software is also a key tool for 3D printing as they allow the user to control the manufacturing process to improve the quality of the final print. This software is generally shipped bundled with the printer and is designed for a specific printer or technology. The demand for this software is estimated to increase with the increasing sales of medium and high-end 3D printers which include such software with the printer.
4) Material demand set to grow at an exponential rate
The demand for 3D printing materials is expanding at an unprecedented scale owing to the increasing adoption of 3D printing solutions for industrial and residential purposes. The current trend is observing a reversal where materials are developed as per the application. This is particularly beneficial for industries like aerospace and healthcare as they require customized materials with specific properties. Also, with the advancement in metal 3D printing, the demand for the metal as a material is poised to grow at the fastest rate in the upcoming years. Metal 3D printing is fast gaining traction among industries as it is fast, accurate, and cost-efficient. The process is used to manufacture small series parts for testing purposes. The burgeoning need to develop complex geometries with utmost accuracy and speed are the major factors that are boosting the metal 3D printing market growth. Industries like medical, aerospace, automotive and jewelry are already utilizing metal 3D printing for not only prototyping but also for producing complex components that are driving the demand for metal 3D printing in these industries. 3D printer manufacturers consider metal in powdered form as the most desirable material, owing to its performance, to produce 3D printed parts and prototypes.
5) Automation in the area of post-processing
Earlier, post-processing was referred to as “dirty secret” of additive manufacturing and one of the least optimized stages of the additive workflow. Currently, the post-processing operations are manually driven, thus requiring more skilled operators which in turn increases lead time and production costs.
So, steps are being taken to change this and companies that are overcoming these hurdles in the end-to-end additive manufacturing process are the ones luring investments. Investments in post-processing 3D further exemplify a commitment to 3D printing’s future against traditional techniques like injection molding. In October 2019, UK-based post-processing specialist Additive Manufacturing Technologies (AMT) has completed $5.2 million series A funding round to commercialize its post-processing technology intending to launch an integrated digital manufacturing system that will deliver end-to-end solutions from selecting materials to part finishing for any industrial manufacturing process.
Currently, 3D printing is fast-moving from prototyping to a viable option for industrial production. The growing need to mass-produce industrial components along with the rising investments in the field of innovative applications will boost the demand for 3D printing. As we look in the upcoming years, more application-driven solutions are expected to come. Thus, the 3D printing market has a bright future ahead and has the potential to grow at an astounding rate of 27.59% during the forecast period. Therefore, the 3D printing market size is expected to be valued at US$39.640 billion in 2024.