Market Study Metal additive manufacturing: Technology and market outlook
After initial commercialisation in the 1990s, metal additive manufacturing has witnessed a flurry of interest in recent years. Key players have been quick to capitalise on this demand, enjoying exponential revenue growth since 2013 as a result.
A technical report from ID Tech Ex gives a detailed status and outlook for the metal additive manufacturing industry. The advantages of metal additive manufacturing are numerous with design freedom, local versatile manufacturing, potential cost savings, shortened manufacturing times, and much more. To exploit this there is an ever-expanding family of printer processes using a wide number of material feedstocks. A common tactic for new entrants is to invent new terms for their technology to differentiate from the competition. Some of these are unique but most are aligned with existing processes, introducing only subtle variations.
The reality is that every process must compromise on something, be it the rate, price, precision, size, material compatibility, or more. There is also the learning curve to be considered. As with any new (primarily) B2B technology with a large price-tag, it will take time for end-users to have confidence in the process and value-add to warrant the investment. Powder bed fusion processes (DMLS, SLM, and EBM) have been commercial for the longest time, which results in this technology underpinning most installations. However, the next generation of technologies is gaining more traction and within the next decade a more diverse installation base will be observed. There are some overarching trends for new entrants as they try to find gaps in the market. Low-cost variants, printers pushing the size extremes from micro to very large scales, faster rates, and those exploiting alternative forms of feedstocks are all rapidly emerging and assessed.
ID Tech Ex forecast that the majority of annual revenue will come from material demand rather than printer sales and installation. Every printer process and application has different material requirements, throughput rates, and alloy demands.
There is a large amount of movement in this industry with notable acquisitions, capacity expansions, improved atomization processes, new materials, and cost reductions. Players are introducing material portfolios bespoke for additive manufacturing from well-known structural alloys to advanced options such as MMCs, high entropy alloys, and amorphous alloys.
Given the variation across this industry, there are very different forecasts when considering cost and volume; titanium powder will be the most significant which is again evident from the market dynamics of expansions, investments, vertical integration and exploring new avenues such as the use of scrap feedstocks.
Key markets and the impact of Covid-19
Metal additive manufacturing has been used for prototypes, tooling, replacement parts, and small to large manufacturing. There are multiple sectors in which this emerging technology is gaining significant uptake, including oil & gas, jewelry, and building & construction. The growth and adoption have all been in high-value industry verticals and the long-term future looks very optimistic.
That said, the Covid-19 global pandemic rapidly introduced new opportunities and concerns for the industry. One opportunity has arisen from major disruptions in global supply chains, which is new interest in distributed manufacturing operations. As international manufacturers address vulnerabilities in their supply chain, metal additive manufacturing has the potential to position itself as a key component in solving supply chain issues. On the other hand, key markets like aerospace face prolonged recovery from pandemic effects. This report analyzes the many trends and global market factors impacting metal additive manufacturing within the decade.