Jun.12, 2013

The 3D printer market in 2012 accounted for more than $1 billion in sales. The 3D printing market will be worth $4B by 2025, according to a recent report "3D Printing 2013-2025: Technologies, Markets, Players" from IDTechEx, an international market research agency.

3D printing has received much attention in the press over recent years. Manufacturers of 3D printers are reporting a surge in demand and markets for 3D printing are growing rapidly.

Growth of the 3D printing market is being driven by a number of factors. Improved awareness has played a major role as publicity regarding the technologies has ramped up in recent years.

Market size by applicational sector in US$ million Source: IDTechEx

Medical and dental fields

The report says, highest growth will be seen in the medical and dental fields, as well as the jewellery, designer products, and architectural areas.

The medical/dental sector has strong growth potential. Currently valued at $141M, it will grow to $868M by 2025 led by dental applications and increasing use for the manufacture of orthopaedic implants. Growth will also be rapid in the jewellery, design arts, and architectural sectors which will see a combined compound annual growth rate of 20% for the period.

Swedish Arcam AB claim that more than 20,000 implants have been generated via its electron beam melting technology which now has both CE-certification and, more recently, has been FDA-cleared.

Aerospace and automobile sectors

The agency predicts, growth will also be relatively strong in the aerospace and car manufacturing sectors. Large companies expect to invest in 3D printing and the technology can be an integral part of their production process. That transition will be accompanied by large amount of capitals.

Geographic breakdown

The market for 3D printers is strong in the USA with activity also picking up in Europe, although Asia remains relatively weak for now (see figures below).

Revenue breakdown by region, 2012 Source: IDTechEx

China has not yet seen much commercial activity in 3D printing, although academic centres have been rigorously publishing in the academic journals on the subject. Revenues for exports of Chinese printer manufacturers remain in excess of their domestic sales.

3D Printer manufactures by geographic region Source: IDTechEx

The report also details patent publishing trends among the various technologies and application areas. Chinese universities have been publishing particularly rigorously across the range of 3D printing technologies, although US and European universities are also active and a number of centres of excellence are apparent. This academic activity has not generally translated to intellectual property, although the Fraunhofer institute of Germany remains an exception.


Price remains an issue at the high end of the market however, with several users reporting that prices of these printers have not moved significantly, in contrast to the low to mid-range printers. Printers that used to cost $1M still cost $1M, whilst printers that used to sell for $100K are now coming in at price points half of that value.

Volumes are still too low at the high end of the market for printer manufacturers to have gained economies of scale and this is inhibiting uptake. The relatively small number of manufacturers with highly differentiated products and high entry costs to this market mean that prices are unlikely to fall at the top end for the foreseeable future.

Materials prices also remain at a premium with 3D printer manufacturers reporting that their materials are optimised to their machines, effectively reducing competition. Prices for a kilogram of titanium powder for printing have been reported as high as US$700, where a kilogram of titanium comes in at well under US$100.

3D printing vs. CNC machines

The report also compares 3D printing with the growth of the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) market.

CNCs are used across a similar range of target markets as 3D printing. CNC machines are used for rapid prototyping, tooling, and low volume production runs. Customers include the aerospace and automotive industries, also the medical sector and specialised machines exist serving the dental and jewellery fields. A modest "hobbyist" market of CNC home-users exists.

The market for CNCs exhibits a well-established periodic nature due to the capital expenditure cycles of the markets it - and 3D printers - serve, and the 3D printing market will observe a similar periodicity as it penetrates into the same sectors.

During times of capex turnover, revenues for the 3D printer manufacturers will be bolstered by continued materials sales, although many users will remain careful with materials usage whilst prices remain so high.

The report concludes, a 3rd industrial revolution is unlikely, but an industrial renovation is certainly on the cards.

Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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