Chart of predicted ratios of metal 3D printing processes [Source: SmarTech Analysis]
Over the past few years there has been a very significant boost in metal 3D printing. Why is this so?
I believe there are several important reasons. Let’s take a look.
Aerospace Adoption of Additive Manufacturing
The primary driver seems to be that several industries, most notably the aerospace industry, have finally after many years of exploration and experimentation, have decided additive manufacturing is a technology they can use in production parts.
It’s not surprising: innovative 3D designs can vastly simply the part structure, usually significantly reducing the number of components with consequent reduction in weight, risk and cost.
However, it took many years to gain the confidence and official certifications required to enable use of such parts on production aircraft. But that barrier has been passed, opening the way for greatly increased use of 3D printing in the aerospace sector.
One way to look at this is that the use of metal 3D printing in aerospace switched from prototypes to production parts. And as everyone knows, there are usually a lot more production parts to be made than prototypes. That alone will create demand.
Alternative Metal 3D Printing Processes
A second factor in the growth of metal 3D printing is the availability of (relatively) inexpensive alternative 3D printing processes. Two companies in particular, Markforged and Desktop Metal, have leveraged this style of 3D printing to create large operations providing this style of metal 3D printing to new audiences that were unable to afford the high price of traditional metal 3D printing configurations used in aerospace.
Aerospace is an expensive business, and parts always were costly. Thus it was easier for that sector to switch to expensive 3D printed parts, because they were already accustomed to high part costs.
That is not the case with many other industries. However, the new 3D printing processes available from many new providers should address their needs and grow the use of metal 3D printing very significantly.
In fact, you can see at top a chart from SmarTech Analysis, which clearly shows how the alternative metal 3D printing processes are set to grow significantly over the next few years in comparison to the traditional approaches.
Metal 3D Printing Market Size
That same report also provides a third reason for the growth of metal 3D printing: money!
The report suggests that the metal 3D printing sector will generate an astonishing US$228B (yes, Billions) over the next decade.
That is an enormous amount of money, more than a quarter of a trillion US$, in fact.
Let me tell you a fact about entrepreneurs: they look for big money and markets. I am pretty certain there are many players in the industry looking at that figure and asking themselves, “What do we need to do to grab the largest possible piece of that money?”
This is how innovation occurs. These players will look deeply into the market and determine how best they can serve it. They’ll produce innovative equipment, materials, processes, services and tools that they hope will attract business from that pile of cash.
In a way, it’s a circular thing: let’s get into that market because it’s big, but it’s big because companies are getting into it.
You can see the rest of the SmarTech Analysis report at the link below.