AMR Looks Ahead to 2017 in the Polymer, Metal, and Medical/Dental Markets for Additive Manufacturing


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amrAs we settle collectively into 2017, the new year is looking all the brighter in the light of the setting sun of 2016 as the last year in additive manufacturing produced incredible advances and brought new players into the center of focus as they began to position themselves as ready to not just enter, but to impact the market. In December, we heard first-hand from Additive Manufacturing Research (AMR) about some of their thoughts on 2016 in review as well as predictions looking ahead to 2017 at Inside 3D Printing San Diego, as lead analyst Scott Dunham shared his insights at the conference. We have now received the latest bulletins from AMR’s expert team, providing a more detailed look at the AM market as it stood in December 2016 looking forward, and Dunham has provided exclusive commentary for our readers to look more deeply into the findings in the polymer, metal, and medical/dental markets for additive manufacturing. We can expect to see a year of continuing, if more moderate, growth in these key market segments, as we enter a transitional year that will set the stage for further development.


Scott Dunham

“In December, we’re highlighting in both our polymers and metals additive manufacturing research services some of our expectations for the 2017 year,” Dunham tells us. “It certainly will be an interesting one, and no doubt perhaps one of the most pivotal for the industry in the entirety of its history. Now that there is legitimate ‘fresh blood’ into the polymers market through HP, Carbon, Ricoh, and several others, it’s time for the industry at large to get down to two things – executing on the value propositions of their respective technologies and developing or supporting meaningful manufacturing applications in a targeted way. “

The entrance of new players with significant potential to substantially reshape the market is a factor not to be overlooked as we begin 2017, where announced entries are set to formalize and recent entrants take deeper root in the industry. Speaking to these trends, we look first to the December 2016 report on polymers.

Polymer Additive Manufacturing Market Research Service – December 2016

amr-polymer-decemberNew players are set to disrupt the polymer market, having begun in 2016 to settle in. Notably on AMR’s radar is the entry of HP to the market, as the company officially unveiled its long-in-the-works 3D printing system in May 2016 and began delivering production units in December. This entry is set to potentially disrupt the hardware market in polymers, as the Multi Jet Fusion system may displace use of more established SLS systems from competitors. On the materials side here, introductions from such companies as Additive Elements, voxeljet, and Henkel are poised to make waves in uses including end-use parts manufacture. Furthermore, continued commercial success for the BAAM composite printing system highlights growing acceptance of AM technologies.

Dunham elaborates on the polymer market:

“Right now, on all sides of the professional and industrial market, we think the biggest challenge is a convoluted and complex value offering. New players and widespread development of new printing processes for specialty polymers have made it more challenging for potential manufacturing partners and buyers to develop their own internal AM strategies. The appetite is most certainly there, I think that is indisputable, but from customers’ eyes capitalizing on that value seems like a daunting task right now, which we think is somewhat dampening actual investment and growth in printer sales and other growth metrics. Lots of promises are being made by certain machine manufacturers and supporting companies – faster, cheaper, more robust, and straightforward manufacturing using 3DP. Now is time to make sure, as an industry, the polymer 3D printing market is executing and supporting these promises so that customers have a more clear way forward in developing their own strategies for additive manufacturing.”

Metal Additive Manufacturing Market Research Service – December 2016

amr-metal-decemberThe metal additive manufacturing market is set to see increasing acceptance and growth — though, AMR notes, not at a breakneck speed. On the hardware side, AMR is seeing that 2017 is set to be a potentially transition-oriented year as manufacturers support existing technology while looking to the next generation of their offerings. Nickel alloys are set to make an impact on the materials side, while the market outlook overall is gearing itself more toward complete end-to-end solutions offerings.

Dunham explains his outlook on the metal market:

“For once, we are seeing the metal and polymer additive manufacturing markets on somewhat level playing ground for 2017. Here at AMR, we are definitely predicting 2017 will be a transitionary, but also critical year for the metal AM industry for many of the same reasons above. A lot of the hardware market is now transitioning to next generation machine architecture (see EOS, Concept Laser, etc). We’re very excited for what this more integrated and automated future for AM looks like – but 2017 will definitely be a year in which a lot of these companies will be focused on perfecting the rollout and support of this next generation hardware. Those that aren’t looking to alter the way their technologies scale and integrate with broader manufacturing processes and environments will probably see a more saturated market in 2017 after several years of record breaking sales.

“Thus, we’re predicting a year of moderate growth – again in line with historical expectations of around 20 percent. But we are tempering expectations for the next ‘breakout year’ growth wise (such as seen in 2013) until the industry at large takes some time to really perfect their next generation concepts and continues to solve challenges related to scaling and integration.”

Medical and Dental Additive Manufacturing Market Research Service – December 2016

amr-medicalMedical applications for additive manufacturing technology represent a growing market that AMR is highlighting as a ‘bright spot’ as we look into the near future.

“One of the brightest spots we see for the broader AM market in 2017 is in healthcare. We’re not shying away from bold statements, as usual, and we’ve recently put out some statements indicating that we at AMR see healthcare related additive manufacturing as driving a significant portion of the growth we expect in 2017,” Dunham tells us.

The use of 3D printing in dental and other medical procedures is spurred on by the growing accuracies possible using this technology, as well as widening acceptance among medical practitioners. While full acceleration is set to hold off for another two years or so, increased acceptance in the market is being seen in uses such as dentures and in operating rooms, alongside FDA clearances of 3D printed medical devices and implants. With some high-profile uses recently highlighting the use of 3D printed medical models in complex surgical cases, 3D printing is gaining public awareness as well as acceptance among surgeons and hospital staffs.

Dunham elaborates:

“In healthcare, 3D printing appears to be an increasingly viable and accepted tool. During 2017, SmarTech Publishing expects that 3D printing will accelerate its growth in dentistry where it will become the most widely adopted digital production technology within a decade.  We think that this growth will be due to significantly improving work in disruptive dental applications — such as directly printed long term temporaries and dentures — moving towards permanent restorations in dental composites and ceramics.

“Also in 2017, we believe that surgical communities — especially cardiac and orthopedic – will rapidly embrace 3D printing for a variety of uses and 3D printing will prove itself able to improve the outcomes for patients as well as the ability to cope with complex cases. We will also see continued approvals of 3DP-related procedures, implants and medical devices.

“Overall, it will certainly be an exciting year for the industry as a whole – we are being cautious about growth projections for the year and expect growth in line with historical levels. While this is, of course, good news, however we do not expect an explosion. This is in line with all of our long term forecast trends we have been putting out over the last several years – we still see the real market acceleration on a massive scale around 2019 or so.”

AMR is quickly becoming a go-to source of information in the additive manufacturing industry, as its team of expert analysts draw significant experience from backgrounds at SmarTech Publishing. Established in September 2016, AMR has been providing directly with insights into their market bulletins released each month; you can read their insights from October here and November here as we have followed along with their views of and forecasts for their targeted markets in additive manufacturing. For full subscription access to the monthly bulletins, as well as unlimited consulting time with market analysts, see AMR’s website. Discuss in the Additive Manufacturing Research forum at


AMR Lead Analyst Scott Dunham speaking at Inside 3D Printing San Diego, December 2016

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