Current Situation and Development Trend of Global 3D Printing Industry in 2018

Issuing time:2019-08-08 00:00


Metal 3D printing has great advantages over traditional precision machining in shortening the development and implementation cycle of new products, forming more complex structures efficiently, realizing integration, lightweight design and achieving excellent mechanical properties.

In recent years, 3D printing applications are gradually moving from prototype design to direct manufacturing.Metal 3D printing technology is also developing towards direct manufacturing of final functional parts.

Metal 3D Printing Technology is an Important Supplement to Traditional Processing and Manufacturing Technology

At present, there is still a big gap between metal 3D printing technology and traditional precision processing technology in terms of Machinable materials, processing accuracy, surface roughness and processing efficiency. However, its new technical principles and manufacturing methods have great advantages that traditional precision processing can not match, which are embodied in:

Shorten the development and implementation cycle of new products.

The forming process of 3D printing process is directly driven by three-dimensional model, which can greatly reduce the product development cycle, save the expensive cost of die production and improve the iteration speed of product development without the aid of dies, fixtures and other auxiliary tools.

More complex structures can be formed efficiently.The principle of 3D printing is to divide complex three-dimensional geometry into two-dimensional cross-section shape to laminate manufacturing, so it can realize complex component forming which is difficult to achieve in traditional precision processing, improve the yield of parts, and improve product quality at the same time.

Realize integrated and lightweight design. The application of metal 3D printing technology can optimize the structure of complex parts. On the premise of guaranteeing the performance, the complex structure is redesigned into a simple structure through transformation, which can reduce the weight. The 3D printing technology can also realize the integrated forming of components, thus improving the reliability of products.

The material utilization rate is high.Compared with traditional precision processing technology, metal 3D printing technology can save a lot of materials, especially for more expensive metal materials, which can save a lot of costs.

Achieve excellent mechanical properties. Based on the technological characteristics of rapid solidification by 3D printing, the metallurgical quality of the formed parts is uniform and compact, and there are no other metallurgical defects. At the same time, the characteristics of rapid solidification make the internal structure of the materials to be fine sub-structure, and the strength of the formed parts can be greatly improved without loss of plasticity.

Metal 3D printing technology is not to replace the traditional processing and manufacturing technology, but an important supplement to the traditional processing and manufacturing technology.


Metal 3D printing can be divided into two categories: selective melting of powder bed and directional energy deposition.

Threedimensional printing technology has existed for more than 30 years since its birth. According to the new international standard ISO/ASTM52900:2015 issued by ISO/TC261 Additive Manufacturing Technical Committee in 2015, the principle of additive manufacturing technology is divided into binder spraying (selective spraying deposition of liquid binder binder powder). Increasing material manufacturing process of other materials, directional energy deposition (using focused thermal energy to melt material, i.e. increasing material manufacturing process of melting or deposition), material extrusion (adding material manufacturing process of melting material through nozzle or hole extrusion), material spraying (adding material manufacturing process of selective spraying deposition of material in the form of micro-droplets); There are seven main types: selective melting of powder bed (by selective melting/sintering process of material addition in powder bed area), lamination of thin materials (by layer bonding to form material addition manufacturing process), stereo photo-curing (by photo-induced polymerization selective solidification of liquid photosensitive polymer material addition manufacturing process). Technology can be grouped into these seven categories.

The principle of metal 3D printing technology can be divided into two categories: selective melting of powder bed and directional energy deposition. The metal 3D printing technology based on these two principles can produce metal parts up to the standard of forgings. According to Wohlers'statistics of 36 major metal 3D printing enterprises in the world, including platinum, in 2018, 18 were using powder bed selective melting technology and 8 were using directional energy deposition technology, accounting for 72%.


The main advantages of powder bed selective melting technology are that it can print extremely complex structures (especially complex inner cavity structures) which traditional technology can not reach, and the dimensional accuracy of parts is high.

These advantages open up infinite possibilities for innovative design of metal structural parts, provide effective new technical approaches such as remarkable weight reduction, high efficiency heat transfer, accurate density and modulus matching, and open up a new direction of revolutionary progress for aerospace complex components, medical implants and conformal cooling moulds, and their mechanical properties. Over the mechanical properties of castings and even parts to meet the forging standards, so it has become the most widely used metal 3D printing technology, which is the main support technology for the rapid development of metal 3D printing output in recent years.

The main shortcomings are that the printing efficiency is slightly low, it is difficult to print large size (meter grade) parts, and the cost is relatively high because of the need for ultra-fine spherical metal powder.

The main advantages of directional energy deposition technology are: Large Print scale range, easy multi-material printing, high-power laser can be used to achieve printing efficiency of kilogram per hour, very suitable for high-performance shaping and repair, etc.

The main shortcomings are that the structure complexity of the printed parts is not high enough and there is a large processing margin. In the competition with the traditional manufacturing technology, there is no obvious irreplaceability like the powder bed selective melting technology, and the maturity of technology and automation of equipment are not as high as the powder bed selective melting technology, so the speed of popularization and application is not as fast as the powder bed selective melting technology.


Development of Metal 3D Printing towards Direct Manufacturing of Final Functional Parts

In recent years, the application field of 3D printing technology has been gradually broadened. More and more enterprises regard it as the direction of technology transformation, which is used to break through the bottleneck of research and development or to solve design problems, and to help intelligent manufacturing, green manufacturing and other new manufacturing modes.

It is worth mentioning that the application mode of 3D printing is gradually moving from prototype design to direct manufacturing. According to Wohlers'statistics on 82 service providers and 28 system manufacturers worldwide, the proportion of direct manufacturing of spare parts in their business income has increased year by year, with a compound growth rate of 23.5% in the past five years. In 2017, the output value of direct manufacturing of spare parts was US$920 million, an increase of 32.33% over the previous year.


The development of metal 3D printing technology is not isolated, it involves manufacturing technology, equipment, materials, optimization design and other aspects. Generally speaking, in order to obtain wider application, metal 3D printing technology is striving to give consideration to high performance, high precision, high efficiency, low cost, larger processing size range and wider scope. The purpose of material applicability development is to develop into direct manufacturing of final functional parts.5.png

The above data comes from the analysis report on market demand and investment potential of China's 3D printing industry from 2019 to 2024 issued by Prospective Industry Research Institute.

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