Dec 14, 2015 | By Kira

The metal 3D printing industry has just received some 24 carat-worthy news: according to IT market research company CONTEXT, the worldwide sales of 3D printing machines that produce metal parts, a.k.a., industrial metal 3D printers capable of producing some of the most advanced, high-performance finished goods for use in the aerospace, automobile, and defense industries, are up more than 45% in Q3 2015, compared to the same period last year. Preliminary findings also show that shipments of metal 3D printers alone have grown a staggering 51% so far in 2015, compared to the same period last year.

The metal 3D printing industry has seen some major advancements this year, driven by interest from some of the world’s leading governments, military agencies and advanced manufacturing industries. Indeed, it’s certainly one of the most exciting and promising applications of 3D printing technology, for while most consumers no doubt know 3D printing as a way to produce cheap plastic prototypes and even cheaper plastic trinkets and tchotchkes, industrial manufacturers know it is capable of so much more.

Metal 3D printers are able to significantly reduce the time required to develop extremely durable, high-value parts that would be too complex to manufacture using traditional methods. In addition, by utilizing complex metal alloy and other materials, the 3D printed parts are lighter, faster, and safer and stronger than ever before. It’s no wonder that the metal 3D printer sales are on the rise, despite some perceived setbacks in the industrial/professional 3D printer market at large.

As CONTEXT’s research confirms, while sales of metal 3D printers accounted for only 7% of the global 2,743 industrial/professional printer unit volume shipments in Q3, revenues from metal 3D printers took up 31% of the overall category total—up from just 22% in Q3 2014. Market leaders include EOS, Concept Laser, 3D Systems, Optomec and SLM Solutions, who have all shown year-on-year increases in metal 3D printer shipments.

And, while North America continues to lead the global market in industrial/professional 3D printing shipments, accounting for 44% of the total 3D printers shipped in Q3’15, in terms of the metal 3D printer market, Western Europe is absolutely dominating.

More than 56% of all metal 3D printing systems shipped during the period in question were brought straight into Western European countries, led predominantly by Germany’s keen interest to develop, refine and improve metal 3D printing technology. In just one recent example, Materialise announced they will be launching a new metal 3D printing factory in Bremen, Germany, to specialize in metal 3D printing production services for the aerospace, automotive, and industrial manufacturing services.

“The trend of using 3D printing for finished goods, direct part production is most evident in the metal side of the industry,” said Chris Connery, VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT. “As the 3D printing industry continues to evolve away from just leveraging the technology for rapid prototyping, more and more metal machines are finding homes alongside traditional machines on factory floors.”

Alongside the market leaders mentioned above, including EOS, 3D Systems and SLM Solutions, and high-profile companies that have adopted metal additive manufacturing, such as GE, Boeing, Airbus, we’ve also seen some very exciting new entrants to the metal 3D printing market that seem intent on shaking things up.

For example, Toshiba has unveiled a metal 3D printer that is reportedly ten times faster than its competitors, while just last month TRUMPF (another German player) showcased a full range of extremely high-performance metal 3D printers that use LMF (laser metal fusion) and LMD (laser metal deposition) 3D printing technology. On the innovation side, Israeli startup Xjet has promised to do what Objet did for 3D printed plastics, but with metal. The company is developing a proprietary inkjet printing technology for liquid metal that could make the large scale manufacturing of custom metal parts cheaper and more efficient than ever before, driving 3D metal printing into the mainstream. And in terms of regional development, Thales has brought metal 3D printing to Morocco, with the establishment of an Industrial Competence Center that will 3D print high-value parts for the aerospace industry, among others.

Believe it or not, these are really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the potentials and possibilities for the metal 3D printing industry, which is as hot as liquid gold right now, and not showing any signs of slowing down.



Posted in 3D Printer



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