3D printing has been touted as an enabling platform for applications ranging from personalized medicine to personal drones. However, the specific trajectory it takes – more disruptive than the Internet vs. a passing fad for hobbyists – will depend on conquering commercialization challenges. Aspiring developers will not only need to address technical and commercial challenges, but also create new business models, legal structures, design paradigms, and partnership networks for reality to match the hype.
The 3D printed part market had a $777 million base in 2012, with 3D printed prototype parts in aerospace and automotive applications totaling $315 million and $428 million, respectively, accounting for more than 95% of aggregate sales. By 2025, the market is projected to grow to $8.4 billion, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18%, with transportation prototyping continuing to own a meaningful $4.0 billion although dropping to only 48% overall share as less mature sectors pick up the pace. Specifically, medical markets will soar to $1.9 billion in 2025 from a mere $11 million in 2012. Arcam first received FDA approval for its titanium orthopedic implants (initially knee and hip replacements) in 2011, while OPM only received such approval for PEKK facial and thoracic implants in Q1 2013.
Despite the quality growth in 3D parts revenue, materials developers should go in with eyes wide open as far as revenue and price. 3D printable materials have historically garnered high margins – for instance, stainless steel powder for SLS and EBM printers sells for $120/kg, compared to $10/kg for its bulk analog. The actual amount of material sold to 3D printing applications will grow at a 18% CAGR from 886 tons in 2012 to 9,654 tons in 2025. However, as more materials suppliers enter and prices drop, the total materials market will grow at just an 11% CAGR from $142 million in 2012 to $579 million in 2025. Each of the key materials in today’s 3D printing pipeline will all see price attrition, from a 60% drop in price for titanium powder for aerospace, to stainless steel powder and polycarbonate filament for automotive each experiencing 90% or more in terms of price attrition.
In the longer term, 3D printing has potential to reshape the manufacturing ecosystem, but it will have the most impact in the near term for products that are made in small volumes, require high customization, and are more cost-tolerant. To survive the hype and subsequent fall-out, winners will identify and serve new applications early and often through nimble materials, application development and business models.
To learn more about this topic, join us for the upcoming webinar, “Building the Future: Assessing 3D Printing’s Opportunities and Challenges” on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 at 11 am EDT
Source: Lux Research report “Building the Future: Assessing 3D Printing’s Opportunities and Challenges” — client registration required.