For the year 2017, the 3D printer industry evidenced solid overall industry growth with a lot of exciting product, software and material developments.
HP’s first full year as a separate company appeared to be gaining traction and attracting lots of customer interest. The company has been building out sales networks, and important partnership relationships. On November 1, 2017 HP completed the purchase of Samsung’s printing business along with 6,500 patents.
During 2017, Desktop Metal was the talk of the industry. With major fundraising, exciting technology and future year production product releases the future will tell whether this is truly disruptive technology and business success is achievable.
GE is confronting major business challenges. After investing about $1.5 billion in 3D printing, negative overall business results are resulting in a management shakeup and a projected $20 billion in planned business divestitures. At this juncture the keeper businesses are aerospace, health care and power. All of these businesses have 3D printing opportunities and the company is shifting to a local business R&D model where applied R&D aimed at customer needs should take precedence.
Stratasys and 3D Systems, the original large scale publicly traded pure play 3D printing companies, continue to bump along with remarkably flat sales growth in 2017 as presented below.
Based on the philosophy that over a time a business must grow or go, one would expect to see some type of meaningful change occurring in at least one of these companies in 2018.
Seiko Epson has announced a new focus, adding 3D printing to its long established 2D printing business. Although some level of 3D printing product development has been in process for 5 years this is a major business shift where the results are all prospective.
- Crowd Source Funding
3D printing remains one of the most popular categories for business startups and product funding by Kickstarter and other crowd source funding platforms.
- Startup Cash Refunds and Permanent R&D Tax Credits
During 2017, 3D printing startups and product designers received their first $250,000 in federal cash rebates. Throughout 2017, many more 3D printer users including machine shops and design firms received their first R&D tax credit now that the credits can be used to offset alternative minimum taxes (AMT).
- Aerospace Industry
The aerospace sector continues to be an industry leader for a variety of 3D printing industry products including engine parts and a wide variety of components.
As the 3D printing industry shifts from new product beta development to mass production, the products must pre-qualify and meet regulatory standards. This is particularly relevant for aerospace and medical device products, parts and components.
- Changes in Toyland
3D printing of plastic products has been a mainstay for the 3D printing industry with plastic toys being one of the important plastic product verticals. During 2017, Toys”R”Us filed for bankruptcy and Hasbro Inc., the world’s largest toy company, has made an approach to buy Mattel Incorporated. Mattel itself manufactures toys while Hasbro does not.
The toy industry may look substantially different in 2018 and toy designers may need to use 3D printing to go direct via the Internet due to consolidating sales channels.
2017 was an exciting year for the 3D printing industry. As compared to many other industries that eventually consolidated to two or three major players, 3D printing remains a diverse industry. Perhaps in 2018 we may see some industry restructuring.
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Charles Goulding of R&D Tax Savers discusses developments in 3D printing.
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