With the 3D printing technology growing in diversity and complexity, a host of new materials such as polymer, metal, wax, sand and concrete will help create a market worth upwards of US$29.5 billion by 2032, U.K. research firm IDTechEx said in a report released yesterday.
“Whereas 3D printing used to be synonymous with low-cost thermoplastics for less demanding applications, it now sees more unique and high-performance material enter the market annually, from metal-matrix composites to bio-ceramics to recycled plastics,” technology analyst Sona Dadhania, author of the report notes.
“This portfolio of compatible materials continues to expand as end-users demand higher quality products, greater choice, flexibility, and in the case of prototyping, materials that accurately mimic the final product’s appearance and behaviour.”
Known also as additive manufacturing or AM, there is, the report states, increased adoption of the technology in many sectors.
“With users spanning valuable industry verticals like medicine, automotive and aerospace, there is a continuing drive to expand the material market for AM,” the findings reveal. “With every new material launch comes an additional application for 3D printing to explore.”
Polymers, says Dadhania, remain the most in-demand class of materials for 3D printing: “One of the more popular performance polymers are fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites (FRPs). The strength and stiffness benefits brought by carbon fiber are undeniable, and exploration into continuous carbon fiber extrusion opens a new opportunity for complex composite parts.
“Additional polymers receiving interest included foams, recycled plastics, bio-based polymers and polymers with additives like nanocarbons. As these developments continue to emerge, IDTechEx expects to see the face of polymer AM materials markedly shift over the next decade.”
Meanwhile, in terms of metal AM, “powders are the dominant feedstock, comprising the majority of revenue and mass demand in the metal materials market,” the report notes.
Dadhania estimates the market value for this sector will reach US$18.5 billion by 2032.
“With a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.8 per cent, metal 3D printing is clearly a dynamic field,” she wrote in a post on IDTechEx web site earlier this year. “Finding the value-add use cases, from reducing the inventory of replacement parts to making complex production parts, is enabling wider adoption of metal AM across many key industries.”