Everybody in the 3D printing industry knows that printing for medical and dental markets is a longstanding area of commercial application –in fact, use of printers in these industries is amongst the oldest known use cases for technologies like stereolithography and laser sintering. For two decades, there have been a relatively narrow set of high value applications commercialized across various areas of healthcare, but those have helped create the backbone of today’s 3D printing industry and have propelled a number of key industry stakeholders to their current prominent position in the industry. Materialise, 3D Systems, Stratasys, EnvisionTEC, and EOS all come to mind.
The talk of the proverbial town for the last few years, however, has been all about the transitioning of various 3D printing technologies to “manufacturing” applications. What most of these conversations really are referring to is the adaptation of printing solutions –printers, materials, and software –to produce parts to be used in real products. There’s also a general understanding during these conversations that print technology for manufacturing would be producing such end-use parts in high volumes.
This calls to mind two broad areas of potential adoption which the industry at large is now working to develop attractive solutions for –consumer products manufacturers, and various industrial equipment and product manufacturers. Because much of the value proposition is being tied to ‘high value’ parts which can benefit from redesign to bring cost and performance benefits, industrial markets are getting a lot of attention when it comes to the development and marketing of the future of 3D printing/additive manufacturing.
Such a shift in focus to the industrial markets and related manufacturing applications has left the industry in a state of flux, with overall market growth in hardware responding accordingly. Outright growth has slowed somewhat while the effects of such a change cause ripple effects. During this period, however, we would call back the attention to the healthcare segment, where growth in 3D printing appears to continue to be flourishing and advancing in an increasingly differentiated way; one that may be highly attractive to stakeholders in both the short and long term.
According to our purpose-built market models, developed individually to capture the unique intricacies of each segment of healthcare 3D printing, the combined medical and dental markets for 3D printing will be worth an estimated $3.0B by the end of this year (a large portion of this being associated with printing and engineering services across both dental laboratories and outsourced medical manufacturers). In the primary segments consisting of just printer sales, material sales, and related software solutions, the opportunity is estimated to be some $740M.Healthcare 3D printing represents an attractive segment for both short and long term growth for a number of reasons. First, the breadth of applications across medical and dental segments are well served by today’s existing technologies, in some cases through the development of special medical materials. Printed components are sized relative to the human body, and thus can be manufactured by most systems, with a number of applications seeing print volumes globally of hundreds of thousands, to millions of components per year. Many applications are also highly valuable without the need for significant robust mechanical performance or resistant properties, including medical and dental models, surgical guides, custom instrumentation, and short to medium term prosthetics. Both low cost and professional 3D printers are often utilized today in both medical and dental markets, bringing a wide range of potentially disruptive cost benefits. Finally, healthcare applications are the continued subject of significant well funded medical research.
As a result of the ongoing opportunities in healthcare related 3D printing, SmarTech Publishing has partnered with 3DPrint.com to bring key stakeholders in the industry together at a new business and investment summit titled Additive Manufacturing Strategies – The Future of 3D Printing in Medicine and Dentistry. The conference, to be held in January of 2018, brings together all of the collective leaders in medical and dental 3D printing to present strategic guidance and developments specific to healthcare 3D printing, powered by SmarTech’s ongoing analysis of the segment.
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Scott Dunham is Vice President of Research at SmarTech Markets Publishing, LLC.