What will happen to polymers and metals for additive manufacturing in 2017? What will the major vendors introduce this year? Will this industry continue to shift into manufacturing? These are some of the questions the Additive Manufacturing Research (AMR), an additive manufacturing industry analysis organization explores.
For polymers and metals, here are a few predictions from AMR.
—3D printable polymers: an increasingly challenged market
This segment of the 3DP/AM market has had more challenges over the past two years than in its previous history. In addition to new competition, there is also the development of entirely new print processes.
These challenges are making it difficult for companies to develop and execute AM/3DP strategies involving polymers. According to Scott Dunham, Lead Analyst with AMR, “in some ways, there are almost too many options to explore as many manufacturers are deciding how they can expand on their rapid prototyping efforts into more strategic manufacturing applications using polymer printing.”
Several companies involved in this space have significant potential to shape the 3D-printable polymer market. While hardware sales for Stratasys and 3D Systems may continue to decline, new entrants will focus on the 3D printing of polymers. Therefore, AMR sees the 3DP polymer segment returning to historically established levels of around 20% CAGR through 2020, driven extensively by the polymer powder bed fusion and photopolymerization technology subsegments.
On the materials side in polymers, AMR notes that mechanically superior composites are beginning to truly take center stage.
For 3D-printed metals: hardware and materials
According to Dunham, “we’re expecting the industry to achieve around a 25% growth year over year, representing a fourth year of growth since the market’s ‘inflection point,” which we believe was in 2013. With estimates indicating more than 1,200 metal AM systems sold by the end of calendar 2016, that’s more than $750M in hardware revenues generated.”
New providers are set to shape the 3D printed metals sector. In 2016, AMR believes that about 21% of the total unit sales of metal AM systems came from these new providers, and is expecting this same group to have even more of an impact next year as well.
Precious metals will affect 3D printing in 2017. These materials may expand the reach of metal AM applications beyond aerospace, medical, and industry to encompass niche applications such as directly printed jewelry.
But AMR predicts it will be a tough selling environment for those metals printer firms who have not yet begun making refinements to the capabilities of their systems with an eye towards more streamlined manufacturing applications for end use parts.