Demand, product growth fueling 3-D printing industry

3-D printing, or additive manufacturing, has grown in the last several years and many industries are using strong materials such as metals and nylon to make better materials at a faster rate.

06/17/2017


A plethora of trends have been forecast for 3-D printing materials market, which has, in recent times, established itself as a mega business with a profitable revenue margin. 3-D printing has witnessed a lot of technical advancements in the last few years, and will make a prominent impact on the industrial, manufacturing, education, aviation, healthcare, automotive, and consumer electronics sectors. While the concept had been treated with skepticism and slight disdain at the time of its inception, it has now gained significance and is being recognized as one of the most transformative trends of recent times, giving a boost to 3-D printing materials market.

The 3-D printing process, also called additive manufacturing, involves the dissection of an object into numerous miniature slices, and then the restructuring of the same, from the bottom to the top, layer by layer. Every one of those layers is basically a horizontal cross-section of the resultant product, which are then meshed together to form the final object that boasts of an aesthetic appearance and a classy finesse. 3-D printers use specific material to create parts and shapes in some sort of plastic. Nowadays, these printers can use any kind of material, subject to which industry experts have outlined several materials that can be best used to manufacture figurines, cutlery, statues, etc.

Key products of 3-D printing materials market can be segmented into ceramics, metals, and plastics. As the name suggests, ceramic materials are widely used to print plates, bowls, cups, china, saucers, figurines, statues, and collectibles. Moreover, ceramic materials offer a thermal resistance of approximately 600°C, subject to which ceramic 3-D printing materials industry is set to grow significantly over 2016-2024, having held a share of more than 20% of the overall revenue with a valuation of more than $100 million in 2015.

3-D printing technology is deployed across various professional domains to create prototype models for real-time applications. The general criteria for purchasing the printing material is to check its tensile strength. However, not all materials can be evaluated based on their strength. Nonetheless, 3-D printing materials industry encompasses so many varieties of material that manufacturers will have a wide selection spectrum to choose their favorites from.

The best materials used for 3-D printing include:

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

A common, opaque thermoplastic material made from crude oil, ABS has a melting point of 220°C and the capacity to reform very quickly. ABS is impact resistant, color retaining, non-toxic, and glossy. Easy to mold and relatively tough to break. Owing to its excellent properties, it gets heated quickly and sets fast as well to form the necessary print, thereby propelling ABS 3-D printing materials market, which is expected to grow at a remarkable rate over the next few years.

Metals

Metals such as bronze, gold, silver, stainless steel, titanium, nickel, and aluminum are extremely effective materials for 3-D printing. Metal dust is bound and fired to become a solid, envisioned object that is later polished for a perfect finish. Prototype models can be developed with efficacy using this process. The huge availability of metals and their efficient properties will help propel metal 3-D printing materials market. Metals are widely used for 3-D printing applications across the aerospace, defense, industrial, and automotive sectors, subject to which metal 3-D printing materials industry is anticipated to witness a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% over 2016 to 2024.

Polylactic acid (PLA)

PLA is made from biological raw materials and is the latest polymer biodegradable plastic available in 3-D printing materials market. With a melting point range of 180 to 200°C, PLA can be embedded with other materials for texture and color. It also cools down rather fast to form an object that tough, opaque, and resilient, with a matte finish. Subject to its excellent characteristics and ease of printing, PLA is used for low cost 3-D printing in biomedical and education sectors. The product has a long shelf life, is biodegradable, and does not demand the use of a heated print bed, thereby stimulating PLA 3-D printing materials market.

Stem cells

Extensive research & development activities undertaken by scientists have led to the usage of 3-D printing to develop stem cells for creating artificial organs, regenerating tissue, and testing medication. Recently, a group of Swedish researchers created an artificial 3-D printed cartilage tissue using stem cells, which they state, is no different from an ordinary human tissue. Such inventions are likely to revolutionize the healthcare sector in the future, thereby stimulating stem cell 3-D printing materials market.

Nylon

Nylon melts at 250°C and has recently joined the bandwagon of 3-D printing materials industry. It is a tough material that possesses non-toxicity, high tensile strength, chemical resistance, and damage resistance. Nylon filaments can withstand mechanical stress and require white glue and a heated print bed while printing. Pertaining to its properties of flexibility, durability, chemical endurance, low friction, and corrosion resistance, nylon is used to develop 3-D printed end-use components and functional prototype models. The nylon 3-D printing materials market is projected to have strong growth over the next few years, driven by the product's high demand across the automotive, industrial, transportation, and manufacturing sectors.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

HDPE is a light material with a melting point of 230°C and a good sticking capacity. It is one of the most suitable materials for 3-D printing, as its prints are relatively stronger and lighter than that of other products in 3-D printing materials industry. The HDPE market is projected to register a CAGR of 4% over 2016-2024 with a target revenue estimation of $88 billion by 2024. This escalating growth will also bring about a positive impact on global 3-D printing materials market.

3-D printing's impact on manufacturing industry

The three essentials for survival—food, clothing, and shelter, have also been subject to the 3-D printing technology. It has been reported that the Chinese company HuaShang Tengda 3-D printed an entire two-story house that occupies an area of more than 4,000-sq-ft. A company in Russia managed to build a 400-sq-ft house in just 24 hours at a low cost. This is likely to spur 3-D printing materials market from the construction sector. In the years to come, 3-D printing is bound to be used massively for applications that may have never crossed the human mind. This will create a rather extensive demand for durable, resistant materials, thereby propelling 3-D printing materials industry globally.

Industry experts predict that 3-D printing is all set to go mainstream on a large scale in the next decade or so, which is likely to augment 3-D printing materials market. The huge demand for 3-D printing across prominent sectors such as education and healthcare will fuel global 3-D printing industry, the appreciable growth of which will subsequently create a positive impact on 3-D printing materials market. Reputed companies have been focusing on developing supremely high quality products at reasonable costs. The 3-D printing materials market is consolidated with the top product manufacturers holding more than 50% of the global share in 2015.

The coming years will witness an outbreak of enhancements in 3-D metal printing, experimentation with 3-D printed organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, and multi-color 3-D printing, which will augment 3-D printing materials market. In addition, product manufacturers are working on using multi-materials in consumer 3-D printers. This will apparently allow the materials to spread over various layers, and the finished object will be stronger & sturdier than ever. This in turn, will generate an obvious demand for high quality materials, thereby propelling global 3-D printing materials market.

It is expected that in the near future the 3-D printing materials market will lead to the onslaught of disruptive trends across the medical, manufacturing, education, packaging, and industrial arenas.

Saipriya Iyer, Global Market Insights. This article originally appeared on the Global Market Insights blog. Global Market Insights is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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