According to a new report from IDTEchEx, the 3D printing market surpassed US$1 billion in revenues during 2012 and will continue to across in all target markets through to 2025.The report, “3D Printing 2013-2025: Technologies, Markets, Players”, believes that the highest growth will be seen in the medical and dental fields, as well as the jewellery, designer products, and architectural areas.
As 3D printing locks into the capital investment cycles of the aerospace and automotive industries, IDTEchEx expects growth will be relatively strong in the aerospace sector, especially towards the end of the period considered (2025), by which point aerospace companies expect to be employing 3D printing with a vengeance as qualification hurdles are jumped.
Several capex cycles in manufacturing industries are now turning over which will drive a relatively modest fall in the market in coming years with an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 7.5% for the period 2012-2016.
The medical fields are increasingly adopting 3D printing for the manufacture of prosthetics and orthopaedic implants which are optimized to a particular patient through CT or MRI scan data. According to the report, Swedish Arcam AB claim that more than 20,000 implants have been generated via its electron beam melting technology which now has both CE-certification and, more recently, has been USFDA-cleared.
Potential for low volume high value manufacturing also exists in the aerospace industry, and ducts within the F-18 military aircraft for example are already 3D printed in engineered plastic. The study acknowledges that qualification of processes and materials remains an issue in this field, as does the limited size of unitized components that can currently be printed.
Price remains an issue at the high end of the market however, with several users reporting that prices of these printers have not moved significantly, in contrast to the low to mid-range printers. IDTEchEx believes the relatively small number of manufacturers with highly differentiated products and high entry costs to this market mean that prices are unlikely to fall at the top end for the foreseeable future. Materials prices also remain at a premium with 3D printer manufacturers reporting that their materials are optimized to their machines, effectively reducing competition.
The market for 3D printers is strong in the US with activity also picking up in Europe, although Asia remains relatively weak for now, says the report. In particular, China has not yet seen much commercial activity in 3D printing, although academic centers have been rigorously publishing in the academic journals on the subject. Revenues for exports of Chinese printer manufacturers remain in excess of their domestic sales.