When it comes to history and awareness, polymer additive manufacturing leads the 3D printing industry. The first type of 3D printing to be invented in the 1980s was stereolithography, while thermoplastic filament extrusion holds the most public recognition amongst additive technologies. In fact, IDTechEx finds that demand for polymer materials by mass far exceeds that of metal materials for 3D printing.
With this popularity, the potential for polymer 3D printing to supply custom shoes, personalized prosthetics, or other high-value items has been increasingly explored in the past decade. Yet, actual applications of polymer AM were often restricted to prototyping and one-offs, with the limitations of polymer printing materials and lack of end-user experience preventing more meaningful usage of 3D printing in important sectors. IDTechEx's new report, "Polymer Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook", finds that polymer 3D printing is moving beyond prototyping to high-value adoption by end-users, which will propel its growth to US$21.1 billion in 2033.
End-Use Sectors Finding Value in Polymer Additive Manufacturing
The polymer AM market is finding more end-users integrating AM into their supply chain beyond prototyping and one-offs; the question is, what industries do these end-users belong to? Through user interviews, IDTechEx has identified several application areas, such as:
While polymer 3D printing is well-cemented in motorsport for quick turnaround of spare parts, it has had less application in high-volume automotive production, partly due to low part throughput when compared with incumbent processes like injection molding. However, higher throughput printing technologies like selective laser sintering (SLS) and multi-jet fusion (MJF), which better suit the production volumes needed for automotive, have been utilized for interior automotive components. A recent example is GKN Additive printing 60,000 flexible spoiler closeout seals for General Motors using MJF.
The prospect of personalized medical devices has long made healthcare a popular target area. In fact, one of the greatest 3D printing success stories is the additive manufacturing of customized hearing aids, which Materialise estimates to account for 99% of the hearing aids produced today. Now, changing FDA regulations for 3D-printed medical devices produced at the point-of-care is lowering a traditional barrier for 3D printing in medicine. Additionally, start-ups like OPT Industries are targeting new medical device applications previously untouched by AM, like medical swab production.
Since the launch of Adidas' Futurecraft 4D in 2018, whose initial 100,000 pair production run quickly sold out, shoes featuring 3D-printed midsoles or orthotic insoles have gained the most attention when discussing 3D printing's applications in consumer goods. However, polymer 3D printing is finding and expanding into high-value applications outside of footwear. For example, Luxexcel is using a proprietary jetting process to produce lenses, which can be applied in "smart glasses" or augmented/mixed reality devices (AR/MR). Additionally, composite printing company AREVO developed the capacity to 3D print 25,000 carbon fiber bicycle frames annually and expanded their product range to scooters and furniture.
These application areas are not the only ones where polymer additive manufacturing is finding higher-volume applications that utilize better performing materials; IDTechEx's analysis discusses other important end-user sectors such as manufacturing, dentistry, entertainment, and more. It is meaningful adoption in all these industries that is encouraging polymer hardware and materials purchases, helping fuel the polymer AM market's multi-billion-dollar growth over the next decade.
Market forecasts for Polymer Additive Manufacturing
IDTechEx's new Polymer Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033 report forecasts future revenue, install base, and materials demand for the polymer AM market while carefully segmenting the polymer AM technology and materials market by 10 process categories, 3 material form factors, and 17 individual material categories. Additionally, IDTechEx thoroughly analyzes 20 established and emerging polymer printing technologies and provides detailed discussion on the polymer AM materials market. For further information on this market, including interview-based profiles of the main players, technology benchmarking studies, granular 10-year market forecasts, and application case-studies, see the IDTechEx market report "Polymer Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook".
The IDTechEx report features seven 10-year forecasts, with hardware being split by 10 printing technologies and materials being split by 10 printing technologies and 17 feedstock categories, as shown here. Source: IDTechEx - "Polymer Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook"
For more information on this report, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/polymerAM, or for the full portfolio of 3D Printing research available from IDTechEx please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/3D.