New Tech Taking Away Business From Big 3D Printing Firms
“3D printing will slowly but surely transform the Asian economy,” says Anthony Schiavo from Lux Research, warning that “new challengers are increasingly taking business away from incumbents.” Schiavo made this point at the 3D Additive Manufacturing Seminar organised by SIMTech recently.
“Norsk Titanium, for example, has just won a major deal with Boeing to provide printed parts from its novel plasma arc deposition process that uses wire feedstock,” says Schiavo. “This has much more attractive economics than powder-based systems.”
Schiavo adds that Formlabs prototyping business has been growing very rapidly, giving incumbents like Stratasys a run for their money with a much lower system cost and comparable performance. “This type of competition is a major driver in Stratasys’ recent struggles to grow its business,” he adds.
Metal printing is fastest growing segment
3D printing is already a viable solution in many industries, and the challenges to further adoption are being met by a diverse set of start-ups. The focus on metal printing is the fastest growing segment. In the near term, the density of manufacturing, transportation, and energy industries creates an opportunity for industries in which 3D printing is still largely unexplored. Long term, 3D printing may lead to a decentralisation of manufacturing, forcing Asia to rethink its role as the manufacturing hub of the world.
This can be achieved by looking at the whole process chain and optimising the design iterations, such that less material and supports are used. Professor Christoph Leyens of Fraunhofer IWS says: “Research will help to alleviate the current issues faced during the process chains related to product development, process development, materials development, quality control and testing.” He cites how major additive manufacturing (AM) challenges are related to post-processing due to rough surface quality of printed products and how it requires time and effort to remove support material.
Prototyping without tooling
Leading companies are already commercialising AM technology, rapidly leveraging opportunities to drive the biggest revolution in manufacturing since the invention of the assembly line 140 years ago. New printers enable high throughput and high quality printing. Andy Buttrey of Renishaw says: “3D printing and rapid prototyping have become synonymous due to rapid production without tooling investment.”
There is a wealth of new systems and providers of materials entering the metal printing space. Established companies are increasingly turning to 3D printing as a new business and as a new tool. New value-added services can replace some traditional manufacturing as well as speeding up and cutting production costs.
Matthew Waterhouse cites three ways companies can capture this value. ”You can expand your product and service offerings, improve your internal production processes, or gear up to support your customers’ expansion into AM,” he says.
3D printing has shown signs of rapidly maturing the past year. According to Dr Wei Jun of SIMTech, “the market for AM in 2016 was $6.75 billion, consisting of all products and services worldwide.” This industry is expected to surpass $21 billion by 2020, as more companies adopt AM. New challengers are increasingly stealing business from incumbents such as EOS, Arcam, 3D Systems.
Printer companies are moving to open hardware platforms, increasing performance, customisability and materials selection. The next wave of 3D printing metal start-ups is well-capitalised and they are looking to enter the market in the next two to three years, showing the significance of AM technology.
Meanwhile, newer 3D printing technologies continue to challenge established ones as part of the disruption process. “Even small service providers such as Addero Additive Manufacturing are gaining business from major aerospace multinationals,” says Schiavo. “They offer better throughput and secondary benefits like complete traceability and testing from finished part to raw material sourcing.” The disruption within the fourth industrial revolution continues.
Anthony Schiavo is an analyst based in the Lux Research Singapore office. He leads the Advanced Materials team and supports the broader materials research at Lux. The team conducts research on technical and market trends in areas such as future materials platforms, advanced structural materials, and coatings. His expertise also includes new technological innovations in digital manufacturing, materials informatics, and advanced design technologies. Anthony is often called upon to provide strategic advice and guidance for executives in the automotive, chemicals, and consumer goods industries. Prior to this, he was based in the Lux Research office in Boston. Anthony holds a BS in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech.