3D Printing: Market Analysis

3D printing is a method to produce 3D objects by inserting layers over layers using an additive material and some digital file like CAD. Recently 3D printing has shown a drastic shift towards mainstream product manufacturing in the industries ranging from consumer utilities, online eCommerce and electronics to aerospace. Since its start, a lot of technologies have evolved which include Laser Sintering (LS), Fused Disposition Modelling (FDM), Electron Beam Melting (EBM), and Laminated Object manufacturing (LOM) etc. Constant technological developments helped 3D printing to become an essential part of mainstream industrial manufacturing, as it is more favorable, less expensive, and quicker as compared to the traditional manufacturing methods like vacuum casting and injection molding.

Global 3D printing market is expected to grow at 16.3% CAGR over the period of 2012-2016.    


Driving Factors Responsible for the Growth in 3D Printing

The main factors responsible for such quick growth in 3D Printing include improved latest technologies, awareness, diversity of materials that range from polymers to living tissue, supportive policies, proper government funding, and untapped market. Now, prices of 3D models have also come down and also the range of materials options available have also increased. Among all the main contribution and application has been found in the sectors like automotive industry, aerospace, consumer essentials and healthcare has also contributed in the largest market share. It is also estimated that the 3D printing in the aerospace and healthcare industry will show a spontaneous growth in an exponential manner in the years to come.


Geographical Market Analysis of 3D Printing

Geographically the 3D printing market which will include 3D printers, materials and printing related services, the US is accounted to have the largest market share followed by Europe. But it is found that Europe and APAC markets will show a spontaneous growth in the coming future. There is every possibility that Europe will surpass the US in terms of 3D printing market revenue by the year 2020. The reasons behind such quick growth will be encouraging government regulations, improved financial investment by government, and increased R&D activities. Some of the chief players of the 3D printing market include 3D Systems, Stratasys, ExOne, and Optomec of the US, Arcam of Sweden, EnvisionTEC, microTEC and EOS of Germany, and Layerwise and Materialise of Belgium. 

It is found that developing economies like China and India is offering tremendous growth opportunities for 3D printing manufacturing technologies. This is mainly because of rise in lifestyle and income levels. Apart from this technological awareness, high industrial growth, and financial investment by the government in research and development is also helping in the progress. Currently China is striving hard to take initiatives, doing investments and government funding for R&D that will promote 3D printing as the major manufacturing technique in China.

The US continues to be the largest 3D printing market in the world, and accounts for 42% of global sales in 2017. In developed areas like US and Western Europe, 3D printing market will also be supported by metal-based 3D printers for the manufacture of finished parts.

Applications of 3D Printing

3D printing is now widely applied in aerospace, medical and dental fields, and automotive industries. In medical field customization of 3D printing has helped surgeons to replicate patient's body on the basis of MRI and CT scans, using which they practice difficult invasive procedures, medical and dental implants. 3D printing will be prominent in case of CNC machines, even though there will be some periodic fluctuations in sales, growth will not be steady. Medical and dental sector shows strong growth potential. The sudden growth is mainly because of dental applications like braces, dental aligners and prostheses, and increase in the use for orthopedic implants manufacturing. There will be a rapid growth in the field of jewellery, architectural sectors and design arts, showing a combined CAGR of 20%. Global 3D printing demand is projected to increase by more than 20% per year to $5 billion by 2017. Leading markets for the 3D printing include consumer products like jewellery, toys, and consumer electronics.

Top Materials Used for 3D Printing

There is an increase in the demand for printing materials. Plastics like acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and polylactic acid (PLA) are found to be in increased use along with nylon, which are considered as simplest to work with. Plastics will be continuing to get majority of materials demand. There is a faster growth expected in the use of metals which has greater strength and resistance for 3D printing. Global demand for 3D printing software and other 3D printing products like 3D scanners is expected to grow in line with the ongoing updates in the latest technological and upgrades.

Latest Updates in the Field of 3D Printing

HP is planning to enter the 3D Printing market by the middle of 2014. 3D Systems Corporation has announced the acquisition of Gentle Giant Studios, leading provider of 3D modelling in case of toy industry and entertainment. White Bear Resources Inc. entered into binding letter of intent with Tinkerine Studio Ltd. to acquire the issued and outstanding shares of the company, after which Tinkerine will become a wholly owned subsidiary of White Bear. Stratasys completed its merging with MakerBot, the popular leader in personal and desktop 3D printing.

Advice for Those Entering 3D Printing Industry

3D printing can enable mass customisation, which will take considerably less time and expense of the production cycle. A small start-up company can go quickly from design to manufacture with the help of 3D printer, increase in-house production helping in controlling operations.

With 3D printing becoming a more common thing, one can have further savings on distribution as companies would easily distribute products by sending designs for printing, thus cutting down the distribution costs and issues related to out of stock products.

Challenges in the field of 3D Printing

  • 3D printing also has a number of risks. This includes employers’ liability, product and property liability.
  • Start ups might have problem in starting the actual process of 3D printing. Items might take long time to print.
  • The heat that some the printing processes commonly generate could increase the risk of fire hazard.
  • The digitalization of certain aspects of 3D printing might cause an increase in claims related to intellectual property infringements.

All in all the industry is yet to flourish, start-ups can find a lot of opportunities, so better be prepared as the advancement in the global 3Dprinting market tremendously evolving every now and then.

[We are Connecting Dots, a full service eCommerce solutions company. At Connecting Dots, we help companies build great online businesses, we are Magento implementation partners and build great eCommerce portals]