In this ever-growing additive manufacturing market, players ambition to be the leader in their area of activity. The European Patent Office (EPO) has revealed the countries that are leading the game in patents applications.

First, it should be noted that patent applications for additive manufacturing increased at an average rate of 36% from 2015 to 2018. This is more than ten times greater than the average annual growth of all applications at the EPO combined in the same period (3.5%).

With a share of 35% in patent application, U.S. companies are the ones that apply the most for patents in 3D Printing.

The list of top applicants at the EPO for patents in 3D printing or additive manufacturing is led by two U.S. companies: General Electric (GE), and United Technologies, followed by Siemens from Germany. Meanwhile, HP ranks fourth, 3M sixth, and Boeing nineth, which means that five out of the top ten applicants for AM patents are U.S. companies.

In addition, Nike is the No. 1 in 3D printing patent applications in consumer goods, while four US companies, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Zimmer Biomet and Procter & Gamble, are leading in health applications of 3D printing technology.

Overall, the U.S. and Europe dominate the ranking of top applicants, with eleven U.S. and eight European companies among the leading 25 applicants.

But not all AM-related patent applications are filed by large corporations. 23% of U.S. inventions in additive manufacturing are made by SMEs and 12% by universities and research organizations. The leading U.S. SMEs in patenting additive manufacturing technologies at the EPO are Envisiontec Inc., Carbon Inc., and Seurat Technologies Inc. The universities filing the most patent applications in AM are Harvard, MIT, University of California San Francisco, Columbia University and California Institute of Technology.

The surge in additive manufacturing is part of the broader, rapid rise of digital technologies overall, confirming that the digital transformation of the economy is fully reflected in patent applications reaching the EPO,” said EPO President António Campinos.

Health, energy and transportation: main sectors of interest for patent applications

The study further indicates that the impact of AM technologies spans a large variety of industries. Since 2010 the use of AM in the health sector has generated the greatest demand for patents (4,018 applications), followed by energy and transportation, both generating significant patent application volumes (2,001 and 961 applications respectively). Rapid growth was also observed in areas such as industrial tooling, electronics, construction, and consumer goods, as well as the food sector.

The full report can be read here.

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