Technological developments, developing value chains, and market innovations are propelling 3D printing into the mainstream. Rebounding from the Covid pandemic, predictions suggest that the value of the sector will rise to $55.8 billion by 2027, a substantial growth rate of 23.0% year on year.
The evolution of 3D printing and material technology
Materials already in use for 3D printing services are thermoplastic composites which are readily available, easy to process and relatively inexpensive. The most commonly used are:
- ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
- PLA (Polylactic acid)
- PETG (Polyethylene terephthalate glycol-modified)
Currently, the most widely available metals are bronze and aluminum powders, aluminum alloys and selected grades of stainless steel and maraging steel, titanium alloys and cobalt-chromium compounds. Considerable research and development resources are currently being invested in expanding the range of metals suitable for additive manufacturing.
As the development of raw materials accelerates, the range of substances used for additive manufacturing will be more reliable and uniform in quality, making 3D printing techniques more affordable and user-friendly.
Evolving value chains in the 3D printing sector
As the sophistication of the 3D printing sector develops, value chains are emerging to fulfil the demands of the rapidly growing markets. But companies such as Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin are now incorporating additive manufacturing into their factory workflow. These changes are likely to offer opportunities to contract providers of 3D printing services.
Global innovations in 3D printing
North America and Western Europe will continue leading the additive manufacturing market. However, Asian businesses will likely manufacture an increasing proportion of 3D printers. Their focus is on the less expensive end of the market, producing machines likely to be purchased by hobbyists, students and casual commercial customers.
Innovation in new raw materials and applications and 3D printing technology is expected to transform value chains and B-to-C relationships. The effects of innovation are expected to occur during the evolution of any new technologies. Increasing production speed, efficiency and reliability, alongside reductions in machinery and systems costs, lead to substantial improvements in the quality and uniformity of additive manufacturing.
The future of 3D printing services: key takeaways
- 3D printing will likely focus on progressive refinements and improvements to existing techniques rather than radical new technology.
- A more comprehensive range of plastics and metals suitable for 3D printers will be available.
- Companies increasingly view 3D printing as an integral part of the production process.
3D printing may well be at a tipping point and about to take off dramatically. Business leaders can see that the advantages of the technology add up to a manufacturing revolution that will transform their production operations and strategies. The changes in the direction and scope of 3D printing will create significant opportunities for the industry regarding applications, materials and processes while transforming relationships and value chains and relationships across the additive manufacturing sector.