Oct 21, 2015 | By Kira

With 3D printing technology making more and more headlines, consumers and experts alike have been predominantly focused on and fascinated by the emergence of new 3D printer models, ranging from ultra-high end industrial machines with liquid molten jet technology, to large-scale construction 3D printers, to open source desktop models, to all-in-one multi-functional personal fabricators that combine 3D printing with several other key robotic and machining capabilities. While the dozens of new 3D printers unveiled every week and month present new and innovative possibilities in digital manufacturing, 3D printing technology is as dependent on the printers as on the materials itself. Indeed, there has been significant growth in the development of novel 3D printing materials, such as rubber-like flexible filaments and conductive graphene, which open up as many new 3D printing possibilities as the actual printers—and though often seen as an ‘add-on’ to 3D printer purchases, now is the time to start paying serious attention.

According to a Market Research Reports.biz report released today, the 3D printing materials market is in fact set to overtake the 3D printer market by the year 2023, and reach $8.3 billion dollars by 2025. The report, which covers current and future statuses, opportunities, and market forecasts of 3D printing materials, includes analytical figures and tables, plus profiles of 16 companies from across the globe—including Cookson Gold and Evonik—who supply a range of materials for 3D printing.

Once associated almost entirely with small-scale rapid prototyping and cheap, disposable plastics, 3D printing has now entered the age of additive manufacturing, whereby both industrial and desktop printers are being used in high profile industries, including aerospace, architecture, dental, automotive, jewelry and medical research, for final part production. Benefits include high-quality end-use parts designed with simplified assembly, quicker design iterations, greater design freedom, mass customization and minimal material wastage. Of course, the majority of end-use parts in these industries cannot simply be made from ABS or PLA plastics, meaning that the development of novel materials was absolutely key to the recognition of 3D printing as a feasible manufacturing solution.

Above: Wood-based filament. Below: Stratasys flexible colour palette

The report used information from interviews with 50 key players in the industry and disclosed financial information to define seven key 3D printing materials that are expected to have a total market of over $8 billion by 2025. These include photopolymers, thermoplastic filaments, thermoplastic powders, metal powders, sand and binder, welding wire, and plaster. The report also includes discussions on emerging 3D printing materials, which show even more promise in high-tech medical, robotic and aerospace applications. These include electronically conductive materials, silicone, biomaterials, carbon fiber, regolith, ceramics and of course, graphene.

3D printing with metal and graphene allows for cutting-edge prints with unprecedented mechanical properites

While new 3D printer launches are still moving the industry forward at a dramatic pace, in order for 3D printed parts to effectively revolutionize how we design and manufacture end-use parts, the materials need to be as advanced—if not more so—as the machines that assemble them. If Market Research Reports’ predictions are correct, we can expect even more novel materials to be launched in the coming years, and now would be an excellent time to catch up in order to stay ahead of the curve. 



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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