IDTechEx discusses metal additive manufacturing

3D metal manufacturing companies are now instead trying to be disruptors themselves.

Metal 3D printer manufacturing
Metal 3D printers are now changing their approach in the market (Photo by Kuba Grzybek, Pexels)

Since 3D systems commercialized stereolithography thirty years ago, 3D printer manufacturers who invented their own proprietary technology predominantly followed the same business strategy– selling their printers to customers.


Until recently, it was the norm for established and rising 3D printing players, both in metal and polymer additive manufacturing, to follow the same path. However, companies with proprietary technology are now seeing an alternative. Instead of telling customers how disruptive their machines can be, they aim to be the disruptors themselves.


Decades of an industry following the same business strategy has exposed the inherent difficulties in selling printers, especially metal printers, to end-users. First, customers will need to find the budget for a printer costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, alongside consumable printing materials that cost hundreds per kilogram. 


Then, the customers will need to train employees to operate these printers and how to prepare and finish any 3D-printed parts. if the customer doesn’t have the internal resources for this, they will need to hire skilled labor. Lastly, to make the most of any 3D printer, customers need to understand how to identify applications where 3D printing offers the most value-add and how to design for these opportunities. 

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Overall, these factors make convincing customers to invest in 3D printing, especially metal additive manufacturing, a difficult decision to make. That is not to say the metal printer install base is not growing, but that this increasingly popular business model fits into a growing industry that IDTechEx forecast will reach several thousand crores by 2032.


A new strategy – in-house production

New entrants have recognized the obstacles posed by the traditional business model of selling metal printers to customers for them to print parts. Rather than selling the printers using their proprietary technology like traditional 3D printer manufacturers, they have chosen a different business strategy where they keep their proprietary printing technology in-house.


Here, the 3D printer is not the main product being sold but rather, finished 3D-printed parts are the main product. This circumvents many of the classic barriers to 3D printing adoption, like high capital expenses and the need for specialized AM knowledge.


Rather than having to convince customers that the customer can print great components if they buy a 3D printer, in-house production companies can simply demonstrate that their proprietary printers can indeed manufacture complex, custom parts.

In this way, in-house production companies using their own proprietary technology are like vertically integrated OEMs. Not only will these companies develop their own printing technology and equipment, but they also often develop their own materials for their proprietary printers. As parts manufacturers delivering finished components to customers, they also complete any post-processing that is needed (i.e. depowdering, debinding, sintering, milling, finishing and more). Some also use their own in-house software for design and simulation. Vertical integration makes it possible to provide a full suite of services to end-users – part manufacturing, consulting and design.


Market forecasts for metal additive manufacturing


IDTechEx’s report on metal additive manufacturing forecasts future revenue, install base, and materials demand for the metal AM market while carefully segmenting the metal AM technology and materials market by 10 process categories and 9 metal material categories.


Additionally, IDTechEx analyses each metal printing technology and provides detailed discussion on the metal AM materials market.


2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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