Technology overview The most important companies in the 3D printing industry

Editor: Alexander Stark

The 3D printing industry is growing rapidly, and new printer manufacturers are entering the market nearly every day. To help you keep track, Ampower has created an overview of the most important technology providers in the fields of plastic and metal printing.

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SLS, SLM, FDM or SLA are some of the established applications of 3D printing, but meanwhile there are also technologies from companies that take completely new approaches.
SLS, SLM, FDM or SLA are some of the established applications of 3D printing, but meanwhile there are also technologies from companies that take completely new approaches.
(Source: Public Domain / Pexels )

Compared to other technologies such as machining, industrial 3D printing is still relatively young. At the same time, the 3D printing industry is extremely innovative and is continually exploring new areas of application. 3D printing is no longer just used to produce prototypes or illustrative models but is now a competitive manufacturing alternative for finished products. For instance, additive manufacturing has become a standard application in the production of dental implants or hearing aids. In addition, many users employ the technology to produce manufacturing tools, moulds, single parts or small batches.

Since additive manufacturing produces new materials, processes or applications almost on a daily basis, it is not easy to keep tabs on 3D printer manufacturers and other technology providers. Therefore, the market research company Ampower has analysed this market and created two overviews of the most important companies in the 3D printing industry. The overviews extensively cover the areas of plastic and metal printing. There are of course other 3D printing materials such as sand or ceramics, but the market is currently dominated by plastic and metal applications.

Technology overview of 3D plastic printing

The technology map of 3D plastic printing by Ampower.
The technology map of 3D plastic printing by Ampower.
(Source: Ampower)

Back in the 1980s, the first additive manufacturing process based on stereolithography was commercialised by Chuck Hull. Hull's company 3D-Systems is still one of the leading suppliers in the field of polymer printing. However, today a distinction can be made between 16 different polymer printing processes and new ones are added almost daily. Most suppliers are active in the fields of stereolithography and filament extrusion. But there are also processes that have become established but are only offered by one company so far. These include Digital Composite Manufacturing (DCM) from Fortify or Selective Powder Deposition (SPD) from Aerosint.

Click here for a high-resolution version of the 3D polymer printing map (viewing and downloading are possible without registration).

Ampower's technology map distinguishes processes based on ASTM / ISO 52900. However, meanwhile processes are known that defy a known classification. Systems from suppliers use completely new approaches to energy usage and materials. However, these technologies are still at a relatively young stage of maturity. It should also be noted that even with the same classification, the procedures can still differ.

Technology overview of 3D metal printing

The technology map of 3D metal printing by Ampower.
The technology map of 3D metal printing by Ampower.
(Source: Ampower)

Click here for a high-resolution version of the 3D metal printing map (viewing and downloading are possible without registration).

Even today, laser-based powder bed melting processes are the most widespread technologies. Eos, SLM Solutions or Renishaw, among others, operate in this field. Great expectations in terms of reducing costs and production time are currently being raised by the binder-based systems from suppliers such as HP or Desktop Metal.

Binder systems offer both the high design freedom of the established technologies (SLM, SLS) of metal 3D printing and a higher production speed than powder bed processes. Wire-based processes, for example from Gefertec or Waam, on the other hand, do not focus on high resolution. These processes produce a 'near-net-shape' blank with surfaces machined where high-resolution features are required.

Binder systems offer both the high design freedom of the established technologies (SLM, SLS) of metal 3D printing and a higher production speed than powder bed processes. Wire-based processes, for example from Gefertec or Waam, on the other hand, do not focus on high resolution. These processes produce a 'near-net-shape' blank with surfaces machined where high-resolution features are required.

In the technology overview for additive manufacturing with metals, Ampower distinguishes the processes in accordance with ASTM / ISO 52900. However, there are now processes available that cannot be classified in the familiar categories. Systems from suppliers such as Vader and Fabrisonic use completely new approaches in terms of energy consumption and raw materials. It should also be noted that even though the classification is the same, the processes can still differ. For example, 3DEO's technology can only be classified as binder jetting since it involves a milling process as well.

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