Metal is all the rage lately, and it’s certainly only going to increase in popularity. While your teenagers are probably nodding their heads vigorously in approval, we mean this in terms of metal 3D printing–which also has a huge and growing fan base around the globe–with very good reason. As 3D printing began to garner attention with one plastic figurine being fabricated after another much to the amazement of everyone, more sophisticated machines and processes quickly came on the scene for industrial uses.
Metal 3D printing was discovered, and there was no going back once that treasure trove of power was uncovered. Allowing for components to be made rapidly and affordably with extreme strength and durability, printing with metal showed many the way to creating components that simply could not be made–or made as well–traditionally. Word on the street has been that while many other 3D printing processes and printers are still more popular and affordable, metal will eventually surpass everything. And while that hasn’t happened quite yet, the trend is growing, and use of the technology is producing impressive numbers.
According to recent data released by IT market research company CONTEXT, sales of 3D metal printers across the globe were up by a tremendous 45% in Q3 2015, compared to last year. While many 3D printing companies, manufacturers, and resellers are blaming lack of consumer spending for financial decline, that’s just not the story in the metal 3D printer market where shipments (see Fig. 1) have grown 51% so far in 2015 compared to the same period last year. And still, as they account for only 7% of the global 2,743 industrial/professional printer unit volume shipments in the Q3, revenues from metal 3D Printers took 31% of the overall category total, up from 22% in Q3 14.
CONTEXT confirms that while North America is showing itself as the region where most of industrial printers were shipped (at 44%) this year, Europe is leading in metal 3D printers with more than 56% of the machines being sent to Western Europe. CONTEXT states that much of this is due to the German interest in both developing and improving on 3D printing in metal.
“The trend of using 3D Printing for finished goods, direct part production is most evident in the metal side of the industry,” noted Chris Connery, VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT. “As the 3D Printing industry continues to evolve away from just leveraging the technology for rapid prototyping, more and more metal machines are finding homes alongside traditional machines on factory floors.”
Not surprisingly, the more highly prolific and industrial sectors are showing themselves to be the leaders in metal 3D printing, with aerospace, automotive, and medical listed as the top users. According to CONTEXT, companies such as GE, Boeing, and Airbus are leading the way for producing mass-customization and detailed, low-volume parts. The use of 3D metal printing often shows itself to be unique indeed in these industries as the new technology is able to surpass what was offered by traditional processes. And as one innovation after another surfaces, along with the ability to keep making and maintaining existing parts in a more superior manner, that means better products and a better bottom line for companies of all sizes. Let’s hear your thoughts on the industry in the Metal 3D Printing forum on 3DPB.com.