SmarTech Issues New Report That Projects Polymer 3D Printing to Generate $11.7 Billion in 2020

SmarTech now expects polymer 3D printing to grow to $24 billion in 2024 and as much as $55 billion yearly by the end of this decade.

SmarTech now expects polymer 3D printing to grow to $24 billion in 2024 and as much as $55 billion yearly by the end of this decade.

SmarTech Analysis, provider of industry analysis and market forecasting data to the additive manufacturing (AM) industry, has released its fourth annual market study on the polymer additive manufacturing segment. In the report the firm quantifies the global economic impact of polymer 3D printing including, for the first time, a deep analysis of revenues associated with 3D printed parts.

Driven in the long term by opportunities in direct AM production, SmarTech now expects polymer 3D printing to generate $11.7 billion in revenues in 2020, grow to $24 billion in 2024 and as much as $55 billion yearly by the end of this decade. 

For this report SmarTech Analysis has developed a new model that takes into consideration multiple variables—including average part weight and cost—and data collected through the research conducted in several recent vertical segment reports focusing on automotive, aerospace and consumer products among others, to assess the revenues or revenue-equivalents of 3D printed parts—including prototypes, molds/casts, tools and directly 3D printed final parts.

In this report SmarTech presents all the key revenue categories considered in this report. Hardware is divided into four main hardware families currently processing polymers (powder bed fusion, vat photopolymerization, material extrusion and material jetting). These include a breakdown of high-throughput polymer AM technologies such as digital light synthesis from Carbon, multijet fusion from HP as well as various hardware price-categories): these are now listed as separate segments in all hardware forecasts.

Materials subdivided by technology and form factors (powders, photopolymers, filaments and pellets). Parts are calculated as a complex function of material consumption and are subdivided into vertical adoption segments. The report provides a deep analysis into the full range of types of parts produced by AM, including prototypes and medical models, tools and molds/cast patterns, final and after-market parts and components. These are further broken down into specific applications and part-specific forecasts.

From the Report

Stereolithography first, and then material extrusion were considered the primary polymer technologies in the previous editions of this report. In this edition polymer powder bed fusion is emerging as the reference polymer process. The technology is now proving to be the most capable in industrial appeal due to its high productivity and part production volume potential, as well as the mechanical performance capabilities of parts made via sintering. 

Material extrusion technology generated the most revenue worldwide for polymer 3D printing in professional environments in 2019 by a sizable margin. However, by the end of the forecast period, efforts to industrialize vat photopolymerization and powder bed fusion technologies are expected to drive both these segments to overtake material extrusion for hardware revenue generation worldwide.

SmarTech now firmly identifies indirect and direct part production as the key applications for additive manufacturing. The market for AM polymers has evolved significantly during the past two years, with thermoplastic powder bed fusion processes now emerging as the primary processes for material consumption as AM technologies begin to address the needs of large batch production. Powder materials—and primarily nylon 12—thus represent the largest material segment, driven by laser- and thermal-based polymer PBF processes.

The two most relevant segments for the long-term future of polymer 3D printing are the aerospace and automotive categories. SmarTech does expect that significant production will take place within these segments by 2030.

Consumer products are expected to become a large segment for direct 3D printing. The transition is going to take a long time to complete; however, some early application cases—with more than 1 million parts printed—indicate that it has already begun. In the case of jewelry, a consumer segment that is already a somewhat mature adopter of 3D printing technologies, the use of polymer 3D printing is going to remain mainly connected to molds and cast pattern applications (indirect production via 3D printing).

SmarTech expects polymer 3D-printed parts to grow into a $40 billion opportunity by 2030, at the end of the forecast period examined in this report. These numbers may appear unusual for additive manufacturing; however, they are relatively small in the $12-to-$20 trillion global manufacturing industry. SmarTech expects that polymer 3D printing will continue to evolve into an advanced, serial manufacturing technology, for production of an increasing number of parts.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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