Two reports from US based Wohlers Associates and UK research firm CONTEXT, reveal that the global demand for industrial 3D printers and materials continue to grow at a stunning pace. Metal 3D printing materials alone, grew 41.9% last year. For the past five years metal materials have seen a 40% growth each year.
According to the latest Wohlers Report, an estimated 1.495 billion dollars was spent on materials for all 3D printer systems worldwide last year. This is an increase of 31.9% over the 1.134 billion dollars spent in 2017. The market segment grew 25.5 percent in 2017.
Photopolymers is the largest segment. Thermoplastic powders and filaments are second and third in size, and metal represents 17.4%.
An estimated 491.5 million dollars was spent on photopolymers in 2018, up 20.3% from the previous year. In total material sales, photopolymers represented 32.9% in 2018, and 36% in 2017. The majority of revenue was generated by companies such as 3D Systems, Stratasys and Envisiontec.
Polymers for powder bed fusion systems, which includes powders for laser sintering and HP Multi Jet Fusion, MJF, grew to 402.1 million dollars in 2018.
Wohlers estimates that plastic filament sales grew by 36.7% to 308.6 million dollars in 2018.
Metal material sales grew an astonishing 41.9% in 2018, to an estimated 260.2 million dollars, up from 183.4 million dollars in 2017.
The reason metal and polymer solutions continue to grow
When it comes to 3D printing solutions providers, Wohlers Associates tracked growth and sales of 177 producers of industrial AM systems, which are those priced at $5,000 or more. This is nearly one third more than the 135 system manufacturers reported a year ago.
While industrial system manufacturers grew notably, desktop 3D printing systems (those that sell for under $5,000) saw significant decline in annual growth. The overall AM market continues to trend upward, with many new players, hundreds of millions of dollars invested, and innovative new products designed for AM that few envisioned years ago.
Both metal and polymer solutions continue to grow. Metal printer shipments are projected to see year-on-year unit-volume growth rates of over +49% with polymer machine shipments expected to grow by over +20%, says a report from UK research company CONTEXT.
According to the firm, the 2018 increase in unit shipments of metal and polymer industrial 3D printers was due to new hardware from Markforged, Carbon, HP or 3D Systems for example. Many of these companies saw an increase in revenue in 2018.
The global growth meant that GE Additive, EOS and 3D Systems, three of the top industrial metal 3D printer vendors, all increased their revenues year to year from 4% to even 20% for 3D Systems for machines shipped.
CONTEXT used data from 3D printers range prices from $20,000 to $100,000 and over for its conclusion. The analysis of CONTEXT also has showed the selling continuation of lower-priced, multi-step metal 3D printers.
Volume production 3D printers are expected to grow this year. New technologies including Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis (DLS) process and HP’s Multi Jet Fusion have also resulted in the use of additive manufacturing in volume serial production.