Emerging Technology

3D Printing Update: Q2 2018 in Review

Emerging Technology
3D Printing Investing

The Investing News Network looks at the Q2 2018 3D printing trends that will set the tone for the industry moving forward.

With the global 3D printing market set to touch US$20 billion by 2021 as compared to US$12 billion in 2018, manufacturers of 3D printers are betting on this sector by signing new clients and/or investing more in this market.

Several sub verticals of the 3D printing industry are set to grow in huge numbers as well with the global 3D printing photopolymer set to increase from US$625.5 million in 2017 to US$1.5 billion in 2021, while the global metal and metal alloy market is set to grow from US$266.4 million in 2017 to US$772.7 million in 2021.

As we head into Q3, here the Investing News Network (INN) takes a look back on the second quarter of the year as to what the biggest trends in the sector have been so far and things to look forward to in the upcoming quarters.

3D printing Q2 2018: Trends and takeaways

Some of the big stories in the quarter were from large-cap companies like HP (NYSE:HPQ), who continues to expand in this sector.

In May, HP announced that it had expanded installations of its Jet Fusion 3D printing solutions with digital manufacturers including Materialise (NASDAQ:MTLS) and Protolabs (NYSE:PRLB). However, the most important update from the company was its second quarter results with the company reporting that its printing net revenue was up 11 percent year-over-year.

Dion Weisler, president and CEO of HP said in the press release that the company is in the space for the long run and that he is excited about the leadership position the company has taken.

“It’s a long path and it’s a five to 10 year journey,” Weisler said on the company’s ambition to disrupt the US$12 trillion industry. “We are making the investments today to secure the shareholder value both today and the future. This is a great business for the long term and we remain really confident.”

Further, the company deployed its largest ever production-grade 3D printing center in China where the market is projected to reach US$11.05 billion by 2023.

Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates said that the companies involved in the sector are expanding their capacity in operations and are investing in ways that was not seen many years ago.

Wohlers highlighted few companies who have either invested in a technology center or gotten involved in the M&A activity. One of the companies that Wohlers highlighted is Carpenter Technology (NYSE:CRS) which is establishing a US$52 million technology center in Alabama that was recently approved by Limestone County Commission.

“It’s one of the major trends and we saw more of that in the last three months,” Wohlers said in a phone interview.

Wohlers said that while interest in 3D printing has been on the rise since 2012 but the action in the space has significantly picked up in the last two years.

Wohlers said that major corporations are reading about other companies and sometimes it’s the competitors who add new capabilities and capacity in their involvement which forces others to do the same.

“It’s typically competition that motivates companies to really get into something in a big a way,” Wohlers said. “It’s one thing to dabble in it for few years but now it’s become very serious with the top management of companies.”

Beyond Q2 2018: Automotive industry is heating up

One of the verticals of 3D printing which saw numerous activities in Q2 was the automotive industry as several manufacturers including those in motorsports increased their dependence on 3D printing.

In June, Audi (ETR:NSU) announced that it has adopted Stratasys’ (NASDAQ:SSYS) 3D printers to reduce the prototyping lead production time by 50 percent. Later in the month, Sauber Motorsport announced the expansion of its collaboration with 3D Systems as the team added five new ProX800 SLA 3D Printers to its facilities in Hinwil, Switzerland.

Sauber said that the new printers will be used for the production of the scale model that is used for wind tunnel testing, an essential element for the production of its race car.

In May, General Motors (NYSE:GM) announced that it will depend on 3D printing to produce lighter vehicles, a crucial aspect of its zero emission vehicle plans. Lighter vehicles would make its electric vehicles more efficient.

“That’s exciting and that will drive the industry in terms of cost,” Wohlers said on the adoption of 3D printing by automotive manufacturers. “Cost is still a major consideration–cost of the materials and machines.”

Wohlers said that the 3D printing model is still expensive for high volume production but manufacturers with low volume or high end sports cars along with manufacturers of trucks and buses are beginning to adopt the systems for real production.

“For automotive companies to remain competitive because over time you can drive out the cost and weight of automobiles,” Wohlers said on the automotive manufacturers adopting the technology. “Cost savings can be in terms of reducing part counts.”

Wohlers said that cost of the machines and materials will go down as volumes go up, comparing it to the ‘chicken and egg’.

“As patents expire, we will see many new machines that are largely based [on existing patents],” he said. “[Manufacturers] can copy and offer these products at lower price points.”

Wohlers stressed that there is so much competition among the manufacturers of 3D printers in more recent times, which was not witnessed by the industry players in the previous years.

Beyond Q2 2018: More players to enter the space

Wohlers said that the involvement of China, Singapore and India will be crucial as these countries will play a significant role in both the adoption of the technology and the production of products.

“Other than Western Europe and the US, most countries in the world have not played a significant role in this technology and now that’s changing,” he said. “Over the foreseeable future, one has to keep an eye on what is happening in other parts of the world.”

Several companies including HP have often said the 3D printing is the fourth industrial revolution and Wohlers said it will play a role moving forward

“It’s difficult to discuss Industry 4.0 without talking about 3D printing because it is so central to what companies are doing,” he said.

Wohlers said that major corporations are getting into the space and that there are number of companies who are working on this sector in the background that haven’t disclosed their plans.

Investor takeaway

With so many companies working in the industry or who have plans to in the years ahead––and with more countries set to join the revolution–it’s surely an exciting time for investors to be involved in this space.

For those wishing to jump into this sector, there are number of companies that are listed while a few of these companies witnessed a share price increase this year. For those who would rather invest in the market over a specific company, ETFs are a popular way to do so.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Technology for real-time news 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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