Feb.24, 2014

Peter Misek, analyst at Jefferies, published a report to clients following his attendance at the 3D Printshow in New York. Misek follows the shares of 3D printer makers and in this report, he offered some thought on both the consumer market and the professional/industrial market.

Consumer market: more distinguished by branding

Misek visited over 15 3D printer exhibitors and noted that many of the exhibitors had a difficult time describing exactly what was different about their particular printer.

The consumer 3D printer market has become more commoditized but these devices are less distinguished by quality of output because most of them offer similar functionality, wrote Misek. He believes that the consumer 3D printer market has become "a word-of- mouth/branding game". Although Chinese printing companies offered lowered prices, most people had poor views of their build quality, making low-end pricing pressure less of an issue.

3D metal printing

"We expect 3D printers based on technologies that can process metal-like powder bed binding and powder bed fusion (SLS, EBM) to grow faster than the broader 3D printing over the next few years." wrote Misek. He said major industrial companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Stryker are already in discussions with metal 3D printing companies.

On the other hand, company like General Electric (GE), he wrote, is in the lead to use the 3D printing technology in manufacturing engine parts. GE has stated its intention to invest heavily in 3D printing capabilities and will use many 3D printed parts in the next-gen LEAP engine, a key element for improving fuel efficiency in Boeing and Airbus' next- gen planes. The company will make 3D printer supplier decisions this year followed by initial production starting in 2015 and ramping in late 2015/2016.

GE currently uses Arcam, EOS, and SLM 3D printers and is also testing printers from 3D Systems and Concept Laser.

More improvement needed

Misek also sees the technology could be used to create parts with special qualities that are impossible to be manufactured using traditional methods. Benefits include part consolidation where one monolithic part is used instead of many individual parts, as well as simplified production processes, stronger parts, fewer points of failure, and better performance.

However the 3D printers themselves need to improve on their speed of printing and other characteristics, wrote Misek.

We believe build speed and integrated metrology are the main gating characteristics that need to be improved before 3D printing expands into mass manufacturing. Additionally over the next few years, we see catalytic changes in terms of build speed, quality, and capability as software and physical enhancement as well as automation of materials handling, post-process finishing, and other steps become much more promising in terms of final working parts. The promise of sand casting has also been discussed with industrials and the reality is that a combination of casting and laser sintering/ EBM are both likely to see growth this year with laser and EBM set up for higher growth in 2015/16 due to transformational orders.

"we believe 3d printing is expanding into many enterprise verticals where creative professionals are using 3D printers to rapidly iterate their design ideas. We believe 3D printing will create long-term value by revolutionizing mass manufacturing, but will take some time to develop." said Misek.


Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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