World demand to rise over 20% annually through 2017World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise more than 20 percent per year to $5 billion in 2017. While pro-fessional uses such as design and proto-typing will continue to account for the majority of demand, the most rapid growth will be seen in production and consumer applications. 3D printers will increasingly be utilized to manufacture direct production parts and finished goods in a wide variety of applications. In the consumer segment, projected price drops in desktop 3D printers (helped by upcoming expiration of patents) will motivate purchases by hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers for personal at-home use. Gains will also be driven by growing awareness and interest in 3D printing technologies. Furthermore, as 3D printing speeds and material quality improves, greater adoption of additive production technologies is expected.
Plastics to remain top material, metals to grow fastestAbove-average growth will be seen in demand for printing materials, as the rapidly expanding installed base of 3D printers fuels related materials consumption. Plastics such as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA), and nylon were the first types of materials used in 3D printing, and remain the simplest to work with. Plastics will continue to account for the majority of materials demand, but faster growth is projected for metals, based on their greater strength and resistance, as well as rapid gains in markets such as aerospace. Global demand for software and other 3D printing products such as 3D scanners will grow in line with the overall average, supported by ongoing needs for technological updates and upgrades.
Good opportunities in medical & dental marketSome of the fastest growth will be seen in the medical and dental market, with especially good opportunities expected in dental applications such as braces, prostheses, crowns, bridges, dental aligners, and models for dental restoration procedures. Other leading markets for 3D printing products include consumer products (e.g., jewelry, toys, fashion, consumer electronics), automotive, and aerospace, with the latter expected to see above-average growth. For instance, in 2013 General Electric announced plans to use 3D printers to produce fuel nozzles for its next-generation jet engine. These nozzles are expected to be lighter and stronger than those produced using conventional production techniques.
US to continue as largest 3D printing marketThe US will remain by far the largest national 3D printing market in the world, accounting for 42 percent of global sales in 2017. In developed areas such as the US and Western Europe, 3D printing market value will be supported by the growing presence of metal-based 3D printers for the production of finished parts, as such systems are significantly more expensive than plastics-based 3D printing systems. Rapid gains are expected in China, where most applications (especially in large markets such as consumer products manufacturing) center around design, sample testing, or proto-typing. Demand in China will also benefit from significant government funding in academic institutions, science and re-search centers, as well as manufacturing companies.