May 24, 2017 | By Tess

French 3D printing company Sculpteo has just released the third edition of its “State of 3D Printing” report. The recent edition (which is for 2017) expands on and updates the company’s original State of 3D printing report, which was released in 2015.

The annual report conducted by Sculpteo addresses a number of things relating to the 3D printing industry and the adoption of the technology as a manufacturing process. Its results are derived from answers provided by nearly 1,000 respondents from all over the world.

“Our annual State of 3D Printing is an opportunity for Sculpteo to collect data about the additive manufacturing industry. In this year’s edition, our principal aim is to give you the keys to understand what is at stake in this dynamic and rapidly evolving industry,” reads the report.

According to the document, responders were divided by industry, with 17% being from consumer goods, 17% from industrial goods, 13% from the high tech industry, 9% from the services industry, and 7% from the healthcare sector (to name a few). Interestingly, and in contrast to the 2016 report where more responders identified as owner/CEOs, most participants identified themselves as engineers (29%), while 28% were CEOs, 10% were freelancers, and 7% designers.

Some of the most notable points from the 2017 report were that 47% of participants saw a greater return on their 3D printing investments than in previous years, with companies that use the technology regularly seeing significant returns. 3D printing expenses are expected to rise by 55% this year, as the technology’s market grows quickly, and that cost decline will majorly impact the 3D printing industry (making the technology more accessible and thus more widespread).

Another exciting statistic from the report is that 90% of respondents believed 3D printing gave their business a competitive edge, and most consider the technology to be a vital part of their business operations and manufacturing. The conclusion drawn by Sculpteo based on these figures is that the 3D printing market is indeed maturing.

In terms of 3D printing’s applications, many respondents (28%) said the technology was used to accelerate product development, while 16% said they used it to make customized products, and 13% claimed it helped to increase production flexbility. Overall, prototyping and proof of concept applications were the most common uses for 3D printing, at 34% and 23% respectively.

Interestingly, the report shows that the number of businesses and individuals interested in actually purchasing a 3D printer has dropped, with more interest being put towards external 3D printing services.

For 3D printing materials, Sculpteo found that plastic was still the most commonly used material (with 88% of respondents using it), followed by resins (35%), metals (28%), multicolor sandstone (15%), wax (11%), ceramics (8%), and other (4%). In line with these results, FDM 3D printing has remained the most used (36%), followed by selective laser sintering, stereolithography, multi/polyjet, direct metal laser sintering, and so on.

For this year’s report, the French 3D printing company did a bit of extra research in order to compile a "Business Case" on metal 3D printing. The results from this part of the report showed that aluminum is the most recommended material (62%), followed by stainless steel (22%). The main appeals of metal 3D printing were cost reduction, the ability to produce small batches, and complex designs.

Another new section of the report focused on the skill level of the respondents, asking them whether they were considered to be beginner, intermediate, or expert, and inquiring how long they have been using 3D printing. Out of the 1,000 questioned, 40% identified as beginner, 40% identified as intermediate, and 20% as expert. Most participants have been using the technology between 3 and 5 years.

Looking to the future, respondents were asked to identify keywords they believed would have significant impacts on the 3D printing industry. As mentioned, cost decline was the top point, with 17% of those asked selecting it as having the biggest potential impact. Other notable triggers were “innovation,” metal 3D printing, CLIP technology, the technology’s speed, and new printing materials.

Of course, there is much more to see in Sculpteo’s 32-page report, as it goes on to break down a number of year-over-year factors, providing valuable sectorial insights. “3D Printing is a very innovative sector where technologies change fast. Comparing this year’s trends with last year’s results is a good way to understand the changes this industry is going through,” reads the report.

If you’re interested in reading the entire 3D printing report, you can request it here.



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