Emerging Technology

3D Printing Investing

With 2018 coming to an end, here’s a look back on the biggest 3D printing trends and takeaways this year, with insight from insiders.

The 3D printing industry witnessed a massive evolution in 2018, with the sector receiving news from several subverticals through the year.

In 2017, the technology transitioned to be applied in various industries, such as healthcare and manufacturing; in 2018, the sector saw further progress regarding implementation in these industries.

Some of the top 3D printing stories of 2018 include veterinarians 3D printing part of a skull for a dachshund suffering from cancer, NASA revealing the winning designs for its 3D-printed Mars habitat competition and BigRep unveiling the world’s first 3D-printed electric motorcycle.

On that note, the Investing News Network (INN) takes a look back at the year that pushed 3D printing towards its goal of being the fourth industrial revolution.

3D printing trends 2018: Pushing boundaries

In an email statement to INN, a spokesperson for Essentium said that the firm anticipated the involvement of more “industrial companies” in the 3D printing space in 2018.

That prediction ultimately came to pass. “We anticipated more industrial companies getting involved in 3D printing and investing in 3D printing, and we’ve seen that happen,” the company said.

Numbers from Formnext 2018, a global exhibition on additive manufacturing (AM) held in November of each year, could be reflective of Essentium’s statement. The event’s organizers reported that the four-day conference had over 26,000 specialists in attendance, a 25-percent increase from the previous year. There were also over 632 exhibitors from 32 countries as compared to 393 exhibitors in 2017.

Meanwhile, a report by SmarTech Publishing states that the AM industry grew 24 percent in 2018, reaching a total market value of US$9.3 billion.

The numbers indicate growth in the industry, and the sector has certainly seen several firsts in the year.

Case in point: the 3D-printed electric motorcycle from BigRep, said to have been designed to push boundaries, now exists in the form of a prototype. The bike, which was designed through the company’s innovation consultancy, NowLab, features airless tires, forkless steering and flexible bumpers.

“This bike and our other prototypes push the limits of engineering creativity and will reshape AM technology as we know it,” Daniel Buning, managing director of NowLab, said in a release.

Meanwhile, Michelle Oblak, assistant co-director at the University of Guelph, said 3D printing technology opens new possibilities. Oblak replaced the skull of a dog suffering from cancer using a 3D-printed custom titanium plate.

“The technology has grown so quickly, and to be able to offer this incredible, customized, state-of-the-art plate in one of our canine patients was really amazing,” she said at the time.

3D printing trends 2018: HP enters metal 3D printing space

Pete Basiliere, research vice president for additive manufacturing at Gartner, told INN that the biggest news in the industry was HP’s (NYSE:HPQ) entry into metal 3D printing of bound materials.

In the AM process, 3D printing with bound materials is used to produce items that have been joined by a binding agent. In a document shared with INN, Basiliere explained that users will find 3D printing with bound materials can help with prototyping, tooling and small-size finished parts.

“The use of bound materials, which leverage years of metal injection molding development, coupled with low-cost metal 3D printers (compared to powder bed fusion printers), mean users will be able to 3D print metal prototypes in the office and metal finished goods in the factory,” Basiliere explained. “HP is not the first to market … nor likely to be the last.”

Basiliere said that the biggest takeaway from HP’s entry is the company’s marketing support, which could be along the lines of what was seen for HP’s initial 3D printer offerings. “Heightened user awareness of 3D-printed bound materials will lift all of the suppliers, not just HP,” he said.

In the document, Basiliere mentioned that the benefit rating for such a technology is high for these printers as it offers new ways of prototyping and producing metal parts.

3D printing trends 2018: Companies in focus

While the sector as a whole has been opening up to new frontiers, there are several individual companies that have made significant strides in 2018.

In July, Nano Dimension (NASDAQ:NNDM) received certified vendor status from the US government, which sent its share price soaring 110 percent. In August, the company announced the sale of its 3D printers to the US Armed Forces, and in November it announced its intentions to raise US$29 million for advancing its technologies.

BASF Venture Capital, the investment arm of BASF (ETR:BAS), said in November that it was leading a Series A investment round in Essentium with Materialise (NASDAQ:MTLS). In an email statement to INN, Essentium said that the launch of its High Speed Extrusion AM platform along with the Series A investment round were the important milestones for the company.

Essentium, however, said that the sector had a challenging aspect in terms of claims made by its peers.

“We find that a lot of companies are saying the same thing, making the same claims — it’s challenging for consumers to know who is able to deliver on those claims vs. who is just hype,” the Essentium spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, another company that has been expanding its horizons is 3D Systems (NYSE:DDD). The company announced several key updates through the year, including its collaboration with Amann Girrbach for dental 3D printing. In October, the company said that the collaboration would aid consumers, and that it hopes offer an integrated single-source solution that will accelerate the production of dental devices at a lower cost of operation.

3D printing trends 2018: Investor takeaway

With companies opening new frontiers in 2018, the 3D printing sector has taken leaps and evolved even more since 2017.

While the industry is expected to reach new heights in the following years, with IDTechEX expecting it reach US$22 billion in 2028, it remains to be seen if 3D printing is indeed the fourth industrial revolution.

Stay tuned for our 3D printing outlook for 2019 and beyond as we tell you what’s in store.

Don’t forget to follow us@INN_Technology or real time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Bala Yogesh, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: 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.


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