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Private Space 3D Printing to Reach $2.1B by 2026, SmarTech Reports

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There is no doubt that the commercial space sector is thriving. In the last two years, many private space businesses invested in additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, paving the way for a new generation of innovative space applications while reducing costs, improving lead times, and developing new, complex parts that are physically resilient and structured to reduce fuel consumption. In particular, 3D printing seems well-suited in the space segment due to the requirement for very low volumes of complex parts. In light of this up-and-coming sector, leading AM market research firm SmarTech Analysis has published a new report about the current and projected state of the commercial space industry, specifically focusing on satellites, rockets, and off-Earth structures that will enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and eventually deep space.

Even though the current private space economy is still primarily dominated by several large aerospace and satellite companies – mainly serving government-funded projects –, it has branched to make space more accessible to small private enterprises involved in space exploration, space tourism, communication, launch vehicle manufacturing, and satellites.

According to the leading industry analysis and market forecasting provider, the overall value of 3D printed parts for private space is projected to reach $2.1 billion in 2026. The company further projects that the sector will reach $5.4 billion by 2031, as the sector successfully embraces AM to enhance part optimization to reduce both weight and costs. SmarTech believes that this trend will, in turn, accelerate launch time for spacecraft, ushering in the next growth phase for the industry.

The data is included in SmarTech’s first report focusing exclusively on the commercial space economy. Titled “3D Printing in Commercial Space: The AM Ecosystem in the Private Space Industry,” the study analyzes the dynamics of the AM for the space sector during the period from 2020 to 2031.

3D printed rocket engine made using an SLM 800

Orbex has introduced what is says is the world’s largest 3D printed rocket engine, made using an SLM 800. Image courtesy of Orbex.

Metal 3D printing technologies, in particular metal powder bed fusion (PBF), took the lion’s share of revenues, according to SmarTech. The data demonstrates a 3D printing industry driven by the changing demands and conditions of the global commercial space segment and technology that is disrupting many space applications by lowering manufacturing costs and creating a new value chain. Moreover, this report identifies important new revenue sources for the AM industry based on these trends.

For both satellite manufacturers and launch vehicle providers, 3D printing will help them expand the possibilities of what they can design and manufacture. In fact, the report also offers a ten-year forecast of the annual value of additive manufacturing segments for the space industry and how much they are expected to grow by the end of the forecast period, as well as the value of additively manufactured parts alone.

Satellites, rocket engines, and other high-performance parts have already benefited from AM technology. SmarTech estimates that AM parts for space will grow to roughly 2.2% of all structural space parts by the end of the ten-year forecast period. Even more so, as more launch vehicles become available to deliver payloads to orbit towards the second half of the 2020s, the demand for 3D-printed parts with complex geometries and designs will increase.

In fact, the revenues from additive manufacturing segments of the private space alone are expected to reach $1.2 billion by the end of the forecast period, including metal and polymer hardware and materials and global 3D printing services.

Rocket Lab's Electron launch vehicle lifting off.

Rocket Lab’s Electron launch vehicle lifting off. Image courtesy of Rocket Lab.

In view of the current state of the commercial space industry and the significant number of space companies leveraging additive technologies to build their pathways to space, this is one of the segments where we could see additive manufacturing thrive. Especially as the increased demand for 3D printing is directly related to the technology’s capability to manufacture strong and lightweight parts, reducing part count, cutting costs, and enabling tailored designs. Many space companies have reinvented rocketry designs and manufacturing to reduce time to market and launch costs, like space leaders Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, and SpaceX. As barriers to entry diminish and space startups surge, the adoption of 3D printing will continue to increase.

The SmarTech report takes a closer look at many 3D printed space applications created by many industry companies, including VELO3D, EOS, AMCM, Stratasys, Markforged, 3D Systems, Desktop Metal, GE Additive, and HP.

To learn more about the report, you can visit the SmarTech website. For more on additive manufacturing in the private space industry, you can purchase the entire “3D Printing in Commercial Space: The AM Ecosystem in the Private Space Industry” report by SmarTech Analysis here, or you can contact [email protected]

3DPrint.com has an equity stake in SmarTech.

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