Additive manufacturing of composites is approaching an inflection point. There are many printer manufacturers, market launches, more funding, notable partnerships, and, importantly, demonstrable value-add with a wide range of success stories.
IDTechEx to show significant growth by 2031
In their new report “3D Printing Composites 2021-2031: Technology and Market Analysis,” IDTechEx forecast the market to reach US$ 2 billion by 2031. Although this may not appear like the most considerable number, this represents significant growth from the current market size; a more remarkable than a 9-fold increase from the calculated 2021 revenue for the most mature extrusion/placement technology is expected.
Michael Papish from Markforged stated to IDTechEx, “Advanced composite materials open up new ways to create lighter, stronger parts with less waste in a fraction of the time of traditional manufacturing methods, making them a critical part of an additive manufacturing strategy. We’ve seen demand for new composites and methods grow; in response to customer needs, we’ll launch the FX20 printer later this year, the biggest, fastest, and most sophisticated printer we’ve ever developed, which will open up new composite applications in aerospace, defense, automotive and oil and gas.”
“Over the next ten years, the global additive market is projected to grow 10x, and we believe advanced composite printers and materials will play a key role as manufacturers look for new ways to overcome their supply chain challenges.”
Numerous reasons for significant growth
- Technology maturity – This industry has benefited from the development of 3D printing polymers and metals. Still, there are special considerations from the print head through to the software that had to be further developed to utilize the anisotropic properties from the fibers fully.
- Application maturity – It takes time for end-users to find the value-add applications and prove out the technology. This has now happened for numerous sectors, with benefits ranging from lightweight to reducing inventory costs or downtime with replacement tools, jigs, or fixtures. The applications will not be the high-volume end-use parts that grab headlines and that many initially aspire to. However, tooling, key roles on the manufacturing floor, and low-mid volume part production are still very profitable fields.
- Supply chain maturity – This is often a challenge for a young industry. Still, the market has seen key partnerships from material manufacturers to distributors that have helped remove this pain point.
Given this, it is unsurprising that the funding, market launches, and new entrants have dramatically increased in recent years. This competition is healthy, a rising tide lifts all boats, and there are different business models; the only issue may be in IP lawsuits that could slow this growth. There is a significant amount of capital investment in this field, and with that, IDTechEx is anticipating some M&A activity and, in the longer term, consolidation in the number of players.
The technology progression is also a long way from being complete. There are numerous innovations, with some of the most exciting associated with the progression of thermoset resins that will come to market over the decade. Then there is the development of automation within composite manufacturing in general, from simple pick-and-place robots to rapid performing.