Engineering 101

The Fall and Rise of Metal Additive Manufacturing

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There is little doubt that additive manufacturing will become a key enabling technology across a wide range of sectors. Over the past few years, revenues have grown, notable new entrants have emerged, investments have been significant, and material portfolios broadened.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted that growth in its tracks. IDTechEx has released a comprehensive technical report, ‘Metal Additive Manufacturing 2020-2030’, assessing all elements of the inevitable fall and subsequent rise of this industry.

Metal additive manufacturing has been used for prototypes, tooling, replacement parts, and small to large production runs. Unsurprisingly, the initial success has been in high-value industries prominently aerospace & defense and medical & dental. There are many emerging sectors beyond this, such as automotive and oil & gas, and the long-term future looks bright. However, onset by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the industry will see a significant decline in 2020 with multiple years needed for recovery.

There is good evidence that pre-arranged investments, certifications, and orders have all carried on. There are even potential viewpoints that additive manufacturing has gained prominence during this pandemic, as manufacturers address vulnerabilities in their supply chain and capabilities have been demonstrated in essential circumstances (such as for the need for ventilator parts). The reality, beyond these small victories, is that the market impact has been profound, and the recovery will not be immediate.

The market has fallen in the immediate timeframe, as both internal and client operations ground to a halt for large parts of Q1 and Q2 2020. The short-to-mid-term recovery will differ for each sector with the longest recovery to be for civil aviation. The material demand is forecast to “spring back” faster, but the printer sales will take longer to recover temporarily stagnating the total installed base. IDTechEx forecasts are built on extensive experience in the industry and through extensive primary-interviews to bring the reader the latest and most accurate information on the industry.

How about the remainder of the decade?

Despite this inevitable setback, a mid-to-long-term growth is still anticipated in this industry. Although returns will take longer to be realised it is important that printer manufacturers, investors, and players across the supply chain do not lose faith in this market. 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 and EBM) have been commercial for the longest time which results in this technology underpinning most installations. However, the next generation of technologies are gaining more traction and within the next decade, a more diverse installation base will be observed.

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 IDTechEx report cuts through this marketing and provides accessible impartial categorisation for the industry. The reality is that every process must compromise on something, be it the rate, price, precision, size, material compatibility, or more. IDTechEx provides critical benchmarking studies of these processes; an essential process for identifying gaps in the market and end-use applications.

By 2030 there will be a wide range of applications, some that the industry is rapidly progressing towards and many that are currently unknown. Partnerships, strategic investments, and vertical integrations are all indicative of markets preparing for these future opportunities.

What is included in this market report? The IDTechEx report, ‘Metal Additive Manufacturing 2020-2030’, provides a technical assessment of the industry at a crucial time, providing detailed analysis on the printer processes, material opportunities, and end-use applications all with granular forecasts.

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