Also known as 3-dimensional printing, additive manufacturing (AM) is the process of creating three-dimensional (3D) objects in a layer based on data that is derived from CAD. Over the last few decades, AM has undergone an explosively swift evolution that has led to a transition from making basic models which are also better known as rapid prototyping through the ability to carry out near-net-shape processes to execute the production of objects with complex shapes ultimately being integrated to conventional production methods. The factor that is determinative in driving the anticipated growth of the market is the reduction of lead time and minimizing the cost of production.
The other driver that forms as the basis of all other benefits is continuous investments in additive manufacturing technology that has rendered the manufacturing of metal components with high tensile strength and which are complex in shape practicable, enabling its utilization in a range of engineering applications, among others. There are quite a few techniques pertaining to AM that has been thus far developed, among them the noteworthy mentions are digital light processing (DLP), electron-beam melting (EBM), fused deposition modeling (FDM), selective laser melting (SLM), stereolithography (SLA), among others. Since the system incorporates the layer-by-layer process, it is possible to efficaciously create geometrically complex prototypes and products in relatively smaller quantities. Therefore, applications that are customized, complex, high value, time-sensitive application Viz. automobile and aerospace parts (complex designs), broken part replacement (time-sensitive), and medical implants (highly customized Viz. hip joints replacement) are best served by AM.
The other factors that are conducive to the sustenance of the additive manufacturing market are the increased incidence of customer co-creating whereby the manufacturers are gaining better clarity on ways to leveraging the opportunities of supply chain reduction and inventory minimization by either producing the needful close to the production point where the requirement for the same is expected to arise. Another advantage is crowdsourcing, in case design resources and engineering divisions are not co-located or in the stray event of not being connected, or if the organizations are hard-pressed for time and involved in other deliverables. It has emerged as a viable means through which an organization can effectively capitalize on the opportunities, which arise from the aspect of democratization of technological applications.
One recent example of the aforementioned is an announcement made, in April 2020, by Volkswagen AG (ETR: VOW) which invited upcoming automotive designers and professional to upload their designs on their own Instagram profile and tag images with the #VolkswagenDesign2050 hashtag, whereby their uploaded design will be automatically entered in the competition. The goal of the challenge is to generate 3D printable ideas for automotive parts intended for the VW ID Buzz that will create added value for the customer through function, aesthetics, comfort, and/or customizability, necessitating a customer-centric approach. Thereafter 3 designs will be shortlisted by the executive director of Volkswagen Design among which the winning design will be printed. Further, the third driving factor is that of the sustainable production process, in other words with an additive manufacturing facility located close to the manufacturing line the cost of transportation is significantly reduced as well as due to the creation of lightweight parts.
Titanium and Articles Thereof, N.E.S.; Titanium Waste and Scrap (Excluding Ash and Residues Containing Titanium), Global Imports
Source: International Trade Centre
In thousands of US$
Metal AM segment is expected to be occupy a significant market share since its increasingly finding itself in a myriad of applications. Metal AM offers high-performance parts that are made out of a variety of materials aluminum, bronze, cobalt alloys, copper, gold, nickel alloys, palladium, platinum, silver, steel, titanium alloys, and tungsten, intended for high-value industries like healthcare aerospace, automotive, among others, empowering them to facilitate the fabrication of parts with complex geometries leading to a reduced material weight. Selective laser melting (SLM) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) are metal AM processes that have been used traditionally. As the industry further progresses and is subjected to a higher degree of R&D, metal 3D printing with powder bed fusion is increasingly becoming the mainstay of the additive manufacturing market. In view of the above, the segment of metal as AM material is anticipated to witness a meteoric growth during the next few years, which is evident from a select few developments in 2018, that have been elucidated below.
February – Collaboration
The world's largest aerospace company Boeing [NYSE: BA], and a leading technology and engineering group, Oerlikon [SWX: OERL] reportedly signed a 5-year collaboration agreement to facilitate the development of standard materials and processes for metal AM. Other objectives are:
- Unlock the capabilities of powder bed titanium AM for the aerospace industry
- Development of a wide range of cost-effective, reliable, safe, and structural titanium aerospace components
- Subsequent industrialization of titanium powder bed fusion AM leading to the production of parts as per the standards mandated by to Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Defense
April – Acquisition
Premium AEROTEC the German pioneer in metal 3D printing implementation for aviation and the first aviation supplier that was able to introduce 3D printed titanium components into the structure of aircraft had reportedly acquired APWORKS, the 3D print specialist, thereby reportedly making the latter’s eleven production units that utilize a wide variety of materials, among others, accessible to clients.
October – Completion of AM Metal Powder Production Facility Construction
A Canadian company that is known for designing, developing and manufacturing systems pertaining to plasma waste-to-energy as well as plasma torch called PyroGenesis Canada Inc. (TSX-V: PYR), had reportedly announced the completion of its state of the art AM metal powder production facility that will be reportedly dedicated to plasma atomized Ti6Al-4V powders production, primarily intended for aerospace and biomedical industries.
Another aspect that has the potential to influence this market of the semiconductor industry is the high initial investment which restricts it to a few big entities. Nevertheless, the proverbial every cloud has a silver lining is also applicable to this market as it had been evidenced by Desktop Metal™ a Massachusetts based unicorn that was founded in 2015,which had reportedly raised $65 million in funding led by Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) and with participation from independently managed sovereign wealth fund called Future Fund aiming to make AM accessible to all engineers, designers, and manufacturers outside highly specialized industries, among others. The other aspect is that of labor of which there is a dearth and hence it’s an expensive component of the AM process because AM equipment won’t function just by a push of a button, it requires trained technicians to operate them, this makes it somewhat difficult for AM equipment to be accommodated into the existing manufacturing workflow. Nevertheless, just like mainframes had transitioned into desktop PCs decades ago the AM systems too are gradually transitioning from monolithic to a distributed setup, thereby driving the AM market to a new zenith.