3D print­ing tech­nol­ogy

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - CONTENTS -

Con­sul­tancy firm Canalys is fore­cast­ing a bright fu­ture for the fast-evolv­ing 3D print­ing mar­ket.

Ac­cord­ing to its own re­search and anal­y­sis, the cur­rent size of the mar­ket, in­clud­ing 3D printer sales, ma­te­ri­als and as­so­ci­ated ser­vices, reached US$2.5bn glob­ally in 2013.

The firm pre­dicts that this will rise to US$ 3.8bn in 2014, with the mar­ket con­tin­u­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence rapid growth, reach­ing US$16.2 bil­lion by 2018. This rep­re­sents an ex­pected com­pound an­nual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.7 per­cent from 2013 to 2018.

“This is a mar­ket with enor­mous growth po­ten­tial now that the main bar­ri­ers to up­take are be­ing ad­dressed,” says Canalys's se­nior an­a­lyst, Tim Shepherd.

“Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy are yield­ing faster print times and en­abling ob­jects to be printed in greater com­bi­na­tions of ma­te­ri­als, colours and fin­ishes.

“Cru­cially, prices are also fall­ing, mak­ing the tech­nol­ogy an in­creas­ingly fea­si­ble op­tion for a broad va­ri­ety of en­ter­prise and con­sumer uses, re­stricted only by com­puter aided de­sign com­pe­ten­cies and printer avail­abil­ity – both of which are set to im­prove sig­nif­i­cantly.

“Three-D print­ing has be­come an es­tab­lished tech­nol­ogy for pro­duc­ing pro­to­types and con­cept mod­els of all man­ner of prod­ucts. But as it ma­tures, there is clear and sub­stan­tial po­ten­tial across nu­mer­ous sec­tors, such as en­gi­neer­ing and ar­chi­tec­ture, aero­space and de­fence, and med­i­cal (par­tic­u­larly in the fab­ri­ca­tion of cus­tom pros­thet­ics), for 3D print­ing to have a dra­matic im­pact within five years.”

In the short-term, Canalys ex­pects print­ing-to-or­der ser­vices to drive con­sid­er­able growth while pen­e­tra­tion lags tech­nol­ogy ad­vances.

“There is a clear op­por­tu­nity for com­pa­nies to es­tab­lish 3D print­ing ser­vice stu­dios to ad­dress the grow­ing de­mand for the cus­tom prod­ucts that this tech­nol­ogy makes pos­si­ble,” said the firm's re­search an­a­lyst, Joe Kemp­ton.

“That de­mand will con­tinue to grow, driven by three main fac­tors: cus­tomiza­tion po­ten­tial, con­ve­nience and man­u­fac­tur­ing ef­fi­cien­cies. Items can be printed and per­son­al­ized to or­der. They can of­ten be printed lo­cally, rather than ne­ces­si­tat­ing de­signs be sent off to large, some­times dis­tant, man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“Three-D print­ing also prom­ises less ma­te­rial waste and of­ten lower en­ergy con­sump­tion than con­ven­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses. Given these ben­e­fits and the breadth of use cases, there is no doubt that this mar­ket is set for ro­bust and sig­nif­i­cant growth.”

Canalys says the value of the 3D printer mar­ket it­self grew 109 per­cent in 2013 to US$711m and is fore­cast to grow 79 per­cent in 2014 to hit US$1.3bn. The mar­ket value is ex­pected to grow to US$ 5.4bn by 2018.

Value growth will re­flect in­creas­ing commercial printer vol­umes and, as such, also drive growth in the vol­ume and value of con­sum­ables ship­ments, in­clud­ing both re­sis­tant print­ing ma­te­ri­als and re­mov­able or dis­solv­able sup­port ma­te­ri­als.

“We are at the in­flec­tion point for 3D print­ing. It has now moved from a new and much-hyped, but largely un­proven, man­u­fac­tur­ing process to a tech­nol­ogy with the abil­ity to pro­duce real, in­no­va­tive, com­plex and ro­bust prod­ucts,” said Shepherd. “This is a fast-evolv­ing mar­ket, but it is still in its in­fancy.

“Ex­pect to see new ma­jor en­trants mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact in the in­dus­try in the com­ing years, in­clud­ing gi­ants such as HP. As bar­ri­ers fall, new use cases emerge, the tech­nol­ogy im­proves and new en­trants join, this is a mar­ket that will look very dif­fer­ent in five years' time.”

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