3D printing technology has been around for decades but–as an industry overall–it has aged like a fine wine and is constantly evolving and transforming in ways previously deemed unimaginable.
Over the last few years, the technology has transitioned to be applied in industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace, automobiles, jewellery and metalworks, to name a few.
With that in mind, here the Investing News Network (INN) takes a look back on the year the 3D printing industry had with commentary from industry experts and companies in the space.
3D printing trends 2017: Market performance and growth
In an email with INN, Tim Greene, research director at IDC, said that in North America, the 3D printing market grew in terms of shipments of new printers, the number of technology suppliers and the number of 3D print service providers.
“Revenue did not grow at the same capacity, though, as part of the growth of shipments was lower than the ASP (average selling price), a changing mix, and slower-than-expected growth in utilizing of existing equipment,” he added.
Although North America held a majority of the 3D printing market share in 2016–totaling roughly 35 percent, according to Grand View Research–which can be largely attributed to adoption of 3D printers for 3D designing, 3D modeling and 3D manufacturing of objects–the shift has changed in 2017.
Grand View Research states that the Asia Pacific has become a significant 3D printing manufacturing hub, resulting from a large consumer base and surplus of foreign investments in the sector.
Europe is also a hot spot for 3D printing technologies, and has become the second fasted growing market with a growth rate of 17 percent. According to research from Mordor Intelligence, its growth is attributed to “where end-user markets of 3D Printing materials are growing steadily, especially in the manufacturing and industrial sectors.”
Mordor Intelligence notes that Germany, France and the Netherlands have shown the most growth in terms of 3D printing technologies.
3D printing trends 2017: Wall Street indifference
According to Greene, 3D printing mammoths like 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD) and Stratasys (NASDAQ:SSYS) aren’t as ahead as where they should currently be, he told INN, in terms of “bounce-back of their ‘buzz’.”
“Both companies are innovating, rolling out new products and building on their expertise in materials, workflow and services, but I am not sure that part of what they are doing gets enough press,” he said.
Keith Kmetz, program assistant at IDC expanded on that, stating that the companies’ financials have not been strong in 2017.
“There’s still some resistance from Wall Street on the 3D printing market overall,” Kmetz told INN. “There may have been some unreasonable expectations in the past that are holding back more positive response to the market leaders and others in the market.”
Similarly, Amit Dror, CEO of Nano Dimension (TASE:NNDM,NASDAQ:NNDM) told INN he expected large corporations to enter the 3D printing sector, but that it’s something that can be more expected in the future.
While there’s plenty of new and exciting innovations in the 3D printing sector that Kmetz said will take the industry “to the next level” the financial community has been holding back.
“The market has realized that the “3D printer in every home” is not reasonable,” he explained. “There will be hobbyists and tinkers, but not enough of an annuity to sustain it.”
As such, this likely explains the shift into other markets, including manufacturing and healthcare, where Kmetz said 3D printing can provide a unique value proposition.
3D printing trends 2017: Companies in focus and exciting developments
Despite the Wall Street struggles, 3D printing has still been an exciting development in 2017, particularly as it relates to companies who have announced the development of production configurations of 3D printers.
Greene stated that while people have been developing their own 3D printing “farms” public companies like 3D Systems, Stratasys, and private ones including FormLabs and Carbon–have announced the development of systems that tie their printers together. Greene continued, stating that has allowed for things like load balancing, automation of post-processing and other similar functions that create a small manufacturing cell.
“These solutions are changing the economics of 3D printing by adding a lot of additional features that reduce production costs and reduce the requirement for equipment operators,” Greene said.
“These chemical companies are creating materials that enable greater adoption of the technology and greater utilization of the existing installed base through new materials that allow a wider range of applications and products to be more cost-effectively 3D-printed,” Greene explained.
Kmetz said HP’s establishment of its 3D printing ecosystem is “an exciting development” and–that while 3D printing has traditionally been led by smaller market-sized companies, multi-billion dollar global entities “are seriously investing in 3D printing and starting to build their market presence.”
“This is where the revolution can take place where 3D printing can be the engine for digital manufacturing, but the commitment of these major organizations is a big boost for this market,” Kmetz added.
3D printing trends 2017: Investor takeaway
While 2017 may have been a somewhat challenging year for the 3D printing sector in the financial world, investors shouldn’t be dissuaded from investing in this ever-evolving industry.
Dror told INN that while the solutions related to polymers still have a way to go, the industry is still making significant progress, which is encouraging to hear.
Stay tuned for our 3D printing outlook into 2018 and what’s in store for the industry.
Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Technology for real-time news updates!
Securities Disclosure: I, Jocelyn Aspa, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
Editorial Disclosure: Nano Dimension is a client of the Investing News Network. This article is not paid-for content.
The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.