Market for 3D printing to triple: report

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - Page 14

The global market size of 3D printing will more than triple over the next five years due to the increasing adoption of the technology, Citigroup Global Markets Inc said in a report on Monday.

The forecast came as several early-adopters generated higher consumer curiosity and interest recently, which Citigroup said would likely evolve into a “significant new market segment” in the long term.

The 3D printing industry is “ready to push beyond prototyping,” Citigroup analyst Kenneth Wong said in a report, titled As seen on TV: 3D printing ready for prime time.

In the US, General Electric Co is incorporating 3D-printed components in its new Leap engine and Phonak Hearing Systems is using similar technology to produce hearing aids, while a unit of Taiwanese electronics conglomerate New Kinpo Group (新金寶集團) is this week launching its 3D printer at a cost of NT$15,000 (US$500) per unit.

Citigroup forecast the 3D printing market would expand three-fold by 2017 from the current US$2 billion, while market research consultancy Wohlers Associates Inc predicted the market to expand by a 20 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between this year and 2019.

The use of 3D printing and additive manufacturing seem to be “on the cusp of seeing much broader adoption across more upstream production applications and the consumer end market,” San Francisco, California-based Wong wrote in the report.

Additive manufacturing refers to the process of repeatedly applying thin layers of materials to build objects generated from 3D computer animated design (CAD) files. The main materials involved in the printing process include thermoplastic filaments, photopolymer resins and powdered sand and metals.

Citigroup said the promising market opportunity for additive manufacturing is beginning to attract customers beyond the traditional concept modeling and prototype engineering.

“Larger manufacturing companies are looking to add elements of additive manufacturing into the production process and specialty end-markets, such as medical, dental and jewelry, are already printing end-use parts and goods for commercial use,” Wong wrote.

Demand will accelerate when consumer awareness of the technology increases significantly, he said.

Yuanta Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) analyst Calvin Wei (魏建發) said that low-cost 3D printers launched by companies such as New Kinpo’s subsidiary XYZ Printing Inc (三緯) could also help generate excitement in the market.

The Taiwanese company's retail price of NT$15,000 is much lower than the between NT$42,000 and NT$66,000 of its US and Japanese peers, such as Rock Hill, South Carolina-based 3D Systems Corp and Yokohama-based Japanese company Opencube Inc, he said yesterday in a note.