Conventional wisdom would suggest that the 3D printing materials market is going to be directly tied to the 3D printing hardware market. As the rate of 3D printers sold every year continues to increase, so too should the materials used by those printers grow at a similar rate. However, in actuality the rate of growth for the materials sector will grow exponentially faster than the hardware market. Materials are consumables, so they will need to be repurchased regularly provided the 3D printer is being used regularly. While the materials market has been growing in the past few years at a similar rate to the hardware market, that was primarily because consumables were being purchased by the smaller desktop market, where usage is often less frequent than industrial or commercial markets.
2015 saw a huge increase in industrial 3D printing applications, and as greater numbers of businesses incorporate 3D printers into their workflow, the rates of consumables used are set to explode. According to a new report by market research company Transparency Market Research (TMR) materials across the entire market will be the fastest growing segment of the 3D printing industry. The growth won’t only be limited to higher sales, but the industry’s continued development of new and more specialized materials. As more businesses invest in 3D printing technology, there will be an increasing demand for materials that offer improved surface finishes, higher strength final prints and more versatile material properties. Consequently, the more material options available, the more attracted new businesses will be the to technology.
According to the TMR research report, the 3D printing materials market will face a high demand due to industries as diverse as personal electronics, consumer products, automotive, aerospace and medical. Electronics & consumer products are the segment using the largest amount of materials, accounting for over 22% of the 3D printing materials market in 2013. Automotive applications were the second-largest consumer of materials in 2013. Electronics & consumer products are expected to remain the primary segment of the market, and should see a compound annual growth rate of about 17% between 2014 and 2020.
Government agencies have been encouraging the development and adoption of 3D printing technology in a wide range of industries, which is expected to continue to contribute to the expanding market. The education sector also continued to adopt 3D printing for educational purposes, which is going to increase demand even further. While high materials costs may slow down the education market growth, wider adoption of the technology will start to bring those costs down.
Metal has been an especially rapidly expanding segment, thanks to the growing use of it within the automotive and aerospace industries, however currently plastics account for about 48% of the market. As newer, more advanced formulations, polymers and composite materials are developed, it is expected that it will remain the most popular segment of the market. Prototyping remains one of the primary usages of plastics, mostly due to the variety of colors and relatively low cost when compared to other materials. According to TMR, ABS, PLA, PMMA, polycarbonate and PVC are the most popular polymers used for 3D printing. The most popular metals currently used in 3D printing applications are titanium, aluminum, nickel, steel and copper.
Currently, North America is the largest market for 3D printing materials, and the region accounted for more than 37% of the global demand. That isn’t expected to change, however the Asia Pacific region is experiencing the fastest growth of 3D printing materials use. This growth is likely to continue as Japan and China continue to increase the adoption and development of 3D printing technology and manufacturing applications. According to TMR forecasts, North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region will be primarilyy responsible for the growth of the market, and the rest of the world only has limited access to the technology and materials.
You can find the entire Transparency Market Research report — titled “3D Printing Materials Market for Electronics & Consumer Products, Automotive, Medical, Industrial, Education, Aerospace and Other Applications – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2014 – 2020” — available on their website. The report covers all of the primary 3D printing consumables, including ceramics, plastic, metals, wax and laywood materials, and collects data from all of the industrial applications and global regions. Discuss in the 3D Printing Industry Projections forum over at 3DPB.com.