Electron Beam Melting Poised to Move into the Metal AM Spotlight
The challenges in continuing rapid expansion of metal powder bed fusion growth continued throughout the first nine months of 2019 with expectations for the fourth quarter being only slightly improved. However, electron beam powder bed fusion technology was a huge unexpected outlier during the year, with huge growth levels for the first nine months. While essentially all of this success was tied to GE Additive, the only significant commercial provider of the technology, there are now at least three other electron beam metal powder bed fusion companies which are likely to begin commercial activity broadening the market with system sales by 2021, indicating even more future growth potential in the segment.
Electron beam melting systems are widely deployed in the orthopedics industry, but also in aerospace, and are now increasingly being explored for production of components in support of other industrial markets like energy and oil & gas.
Electron beam melting for metals has been a relatively niche market for many years by comparison to laser technologies, and while laser systems will still command the majority share of industry revenues for the foreseeable future, it appears that the EBM segment is ripe for growth. SmarTech expects GE Additive’s position in this industry to become the most important part of its overall metal portfolio for 2020 as it continues to develop other areas of its metals business. With the competitive landscape for powder bed electron beam technologies set to expand, this niche subsegment of the metal AM market might stealthily slip into one of the most pivotal technologies for the short term in 2020 and 2021.
- Electron beam powder bed fusion technology grew at 135 percent in terms of hardware revenues during 2019 compared to 2018, making it the fastest growing subsegment of the metal AM space
- These results were even more surprising given the overall sluggish hardware growth in metal additive manufacturing due to complexities in the laser based metal powder bed fusion market during the year
- Electron beam melting technology has found excellent traction in select markets, but is now slowly expanding into more and more areas for the future