World demand for 3D printers and related materials and software is projected to rise 21% per year to $5-billion in 2017, according to a study from The Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry market research firm.
While professional uses such as prototyping will continue to account for the majority of demand, the more rapid growth will be seen in production and consumer applications. 3D printers will increasingly be used to manufacture direct production parts and finished goods in a wide variety of applications.
Freedonia analyst Pauline Tung expects “greater adoption of additive manufacturing technologies as 3D printing speeds and material quality improves.” Robust growth will be seen in demand for printing materials, as the rapidly expanding installed base of 3D printers fuels related materials consumption. Plastics will continue to account for the majority of materials demand, but faster growth is projected for metals, based on their greater strength and resistance, as well as rapid gains in markets such as aerospace. Demand for software and other 3D printing products such as 3D scanners will grow in line with the overall average, supported by the ongoing need for technological updates and upgrades.
Some of the fastest growth will be seen in the medical and dental market, with especially good opportunities expected in dental applications such as braces, prostheses, crowns, bridges, dental aligners, and models for dental restoration procedures. Other significant markets for 3D printing products include consumer products (e.g., jewelry, toys, fashion clothing, consumer electronics), automotive, and aerospace.
The US will remain by far the largest national 3D printing market in the world, accounting for 42 percent of global sales in 2017. In developed areas such as the US and Western Europe, 3D printing market value will be supported by the growing presence of metal-based 3D printers for the production of finished parts, as such systems are significantly more expensive than plastics-based 3D printing systems. Rapid gains are expected in China, where most applications (especially in large markets such as consumer products manufacturing) center on design, sample testing, or prototyping.