This market research analyzes and estimates the 3D printing market, which enables the production of physical items while eliminating the traditional manufacturing channel. A part of Additive Manufacturing (AM), this technology has evolved from prototyping in various applications to the development of actually usable parts and products. This process involves building products through layering, without the intervention of cutting, drilling, etc. As a result, tweaking the underlying software helps in the creation of different items. However, this technology differs from mass production, which results in a large volume of identical parts at low cost.
While the majority of the items produced using this process have been mock-ups and prototypes, producers are migrating towards manufacturing low-volume products to be used across various industries. The foremost advantage of this technology is the production of spare parts which cannot be easily obtained otherwise.
3D printing helps in the production of reliable products and lowers the need for iterative product development, thus decreasing the time-to-market of new products. Furthermore, the process alleviates the wastage of raw material as in the case of machining, since only the amount of material necessary for the part under printing is used. Increasing product development and R&D activities are expected to significantly drive the 3D printing market in the coming years. Growth in end-use industries such as healthcare, and increasing demand for cost reduction, increased design freedom, and ease of manufacturing across different application areas is also a key driving force for the 3D printing market. The lack of talent pool to effectively utilize and manage the use of this technology is another barrier to the industry at present. This technology needs to be made more accessible, and training needs to be imparted to designated personnel in order to ensure appropriate and efficient usage.
Key application segments in the 3D printing market include automotive, aerospace, consumer products and medical. The automotive segment is expected to remain the largest and fastest growing over the forecast period and accounted for over 40% of the overall market share in 2012. Healthcare is another key application, and the majority of the hearing-aid shells are produced using this technology. This technology is widely used for dental implants in the medical sector, and dental laboratories have been using this technique to enhance the level of precision in the resultant implants. The reduction in development time has expedited the communication between the lab and the dentist, which greatly benefits the patient. They also have high material stability and can be used directly in the user's mouth due to the biocompatible nature of the material used. Technologies such as LBM, inkjet deposition, FDM, and stereolithography help in achieving precise geometrical configurations of the models to be used for dental implants.
A large number of dental labs in North America coupled with the need for production of accurate and standardized parts is a major contributor to expected increase in 3D printing market demand. 3D printing market for medical applications is expected to grow at a CAGR of 19.3% from 2013 to 2020. With increasing technological maturity and the use of metals as raw materials for fabrication, 3D printing is being used for rapid prototype development. Companies including Boeing, General Electric, have been experimenting with 3D printing technology in order to explore avenues for decreasing costs and increasing productivity. Powder melting technologies are being used to manufacture specialty components and engine blades. Ensuring required quality for parts used in aircraft is of crucial importance since critical parts can be mass produced only after they undergo stringent testing and evaluation. At present, aerospace companies are using plastic, nylon, etc. to fabricate prototypes for aircraft interiors.
3D printing market revenue share by application, 2012
Raw Material Insights
Various raw materials used for making objects for the 3D printing market include polymers, metals, and ceramic among others. Amongst these, the most widely used polymer is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), with estimated market revenue of USD 805.5 million in 2012. Producers are transitioning towards using metals; however, the associated printers are more expensive in comparison to those that work with thermoplastics and other polymers. As a result, polymers are expected to continue dominating the global market in the coming years.
Metal is the preferred raw material in the dental industry; wherein implants are manufactured using metals such as titanium, aluminum, chromium, and cobalt among others. Metals accounted for 26.6% of total 3D printing market revenues in 2012. Growing demand from the aerospace sector is also expected to substantially drive the use of metal for this market. General Electric is looking at this technology in order to produce 85,000 fuel nozzles for its Leap jet engines. The traditional manufacturing channel results in considerable lead time, which negatively impacts profits. With the help of 3D printing, parts can be made in a highly efficient and cost-effective manner. In addition, the finished products are expected to be much stronger and lighter as compared to their conventional counterparts and this process also eliminates the need for special tools.
North America accounted for the largest market share of 42.2% globally in 2012. This was mainly on account of presence of key players such as 3D Systems and Stratasys in the region, coupled with strong focus on technological advancements. 3D printing market in Europe is expected to supersede that in North America by the end of the forecast period and is estimated to be valued at USD 3,505.9 million in 2020. Japan is the largest market for 3D printing in Asia Pacific, with favorable policies for the production and sale of professional-grade printers in the country. The economy ministry is also aiming to include 4.5 billion yen (USD 44 million) in the budget so as to stabilize high-end printers' development. China is striving to play a key role in the industry, and its inventory of 3D printers has grown manifold over the past few years. The primary reason for the Chinese government's focus on this process in the region is to create high-value finished products and combat rising labor costs. A new 3D research center was opened in 2013, with plans of opening nine more in the coming years; a step which will aid in expanding the country's manufacturing capabilities beyond the traditional assembly line process.
Some key industry participants include Stratasys Inc., 3D Systems Corporation, Envisiontec GmbH, and Materialise NV. Intensifying competition is expected to result in lowered prices and increased shipments in the 3D printing market in the coming years. With products maturing rapidly, and iteratively enhancing technology reducing the gap between objects made using this form of printing and conventional methods, the market is expected to witness growing demand over the forecast period. Copyright infringements and intellectual property (IP) issues are a considerable barrier to the industry at present. Currently, one-off products are manufactured using this technology; as a result, patents and IP have not been a deciding factor for production. However, for migration of this activity from hobbyist communities to mass production, resolving this issue is tantamount to commercialization.
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