Looking Back at 2019 and Forward to 2020
2020 is just around the corner. While all of us are going to close the doors of this year, we thought it could be interesting to recall what it really means for the additive manufacturing industry and how the industry can move forward.
Writing this article has not been easy as it required all of us at 3D ADEPT Media to recall the good and the bad of this year. However, we strongly believe, that beyond these memories and general remarks that we will bring out, the most important is that you can appreciate your achievements throughout the year, that you do not forget that it will certainly have some moments of uncertainty and concern again throughout the upcoming year, but there will always be room for improvements in order to have a better industry.
This being said, it should be noted that 2019 was a lot of things at several levels: in terms of business, research & development and in terms of adoption of the technology in various sectors of activity.
At the business level
The introduction of new companies/ services dedicated to additive manufacturing
While some companies almost filed for bankruptcy, 2019 saw the introduction of several companies dedicated to additive manufacturing, and business units dedicated to additive manufacturing services. Among these companies, one notes the creation of Lincotek Additive & AM Solutions to name a few of them. Cytosurge’s 3D Printing business unit named Exaddon & BCN3D for instance have become standalone companies. Others like CORE created larger AM companies through the acquisition of smaller businesses while Addilys & CeresiAM are part of newly-created companies that will offer the market a different solution. Meanwhile, other companies like Amastan opted for a rebranding to strengthen their position on the additive manufacturing market.
Lastly, the latest Formnext event also showed the official introduction of several new companies into the international arena and we will be able to know more about their offering in the upcoming year.
An increasing interest from investors in funding AM companies despite the small-number of funded companies
Surprisingly, compared to 2018, there was not a large number of companies that secured a fund-raising round. Well-established companies including Desktop Metal, Carbon, Markforged, Physna, Prellis Biologics or AMFG secured a financial round to further develop their business.
Only a small number of start-ups such as Spectroplast has been able to benefit from the support of investors.
Although this might look lik the interest for AM is decreasing, it should be noted that well-established businesses are growing and AM start-ups are still making their mark in the AM industry. Furthermore, this shows that investors also need to be educated to additive manufacturing and its potential for industries, a mission that Wohlers has decided to undertake by discussing investment opportunities for AM.
When it comes to finances in this industry, when we do not talk about funding, we discuss acquisitions. And for some strange reason, among all the acquisitions that occurred this year, the acquisition of 3D Printing service provider Sculpteo by BASF left more than one speechless. Nobody expected that, yet Sculpteo is now a BASF company.
An increasing number of metal AM technologies sold compared to other types of AM technologies
Announcing the installation of a new system in a facility is a milestone for a company, especially because, industrial 3D printing systems might require several months or years of negotiation before getting a purchase confirmation.
This year again, the metal AM segment stand out from the crowd. GE Additive, HP, SLM Solutions, Additive Industries, VELO3D & Desktop Metal are part of the companies that announced a big number of machines sold.
Others distinguished themselves from their fellow companies through interesting use cases. In fact, most manufacturers offer customers the possibility to take advantage of their AM technology for a given application. Titomic, Cobra Aero, Farsoon, Nexxt Spine, Admatec are a few examples of companies that showed what was possible with metal AM technology.
The rise of metal AM technologies also led to the development of post-processing solutions that were given second-rate treatment. This area of the AM industry will see a bigger evolution as companies have started to explore new forms of collaboration to raise awareness on the importance of these solutions.
The polymer industrial 3D printing on the other hand, showed a great number of novelties at the materials level. Last year, experts predicted that a wide range of polymer materials will be developed to foster the adoption of polymer 3D printing. This end of year has proven this prediction to be true. Beyond the release of new polymer materials, we witnessed a great number of partnerships between polymer material producers and FDM 3D Printer manufacturers.
Lastly, as metals might not always be sufficiently lightweight enough, operators have started to explore the possibilities raised by composite 3D printing. With almost $250 million raised to date, companies like Markforged, Arevo, Impossible Objects, Fortify, Arris Composites, and recently Desktop Metal are a few examples of players that are transforming this niche market. This niche market increasingly raise investors’ eyes and will certainly gain momentum in 2020.
The rise of 3D printing-dedicated events
The development of the industry led to the launch of several AM/3D Printing-dedicated events that all aim to raise awareness and educate on the potential of the technology.
Conferences across the world, in Saudi Arabia, in the Netherlands, in Spain and in the USA took place for the first time in 2019. These conferences shed light on AM applications and opportunities to seize within these regions.
New initiatives and the willingness to address the future’s challenges
Sustainability remains a key issue for industry experts. As we will see below, some segments of the industry are already addressing this issue while specialists in other segments are still looking for ways to tackle it. One solution that has recently been launched in that sense is AMGTA.
At the Research & Development Level
Throughout 2019, we witnessed an increasing number of research centers leverage AM technologies. The increasing number of applications does not only demonstrate that this target becomes an interesting segment for manufacturers, it also shows he countless possibilities of the different ways to use the technology.
However, among the array of innovations explored, the most interesting ones remain the ones that deal with vital sectors like the medical industry.
Adoption of AM technologies
At 3D ADEPT, we’ve tracked the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies in numerous sectors including automotive, aerospace, medical, architecture, art, food, hi-tech & sport, fashion, oil, energy & gas industries, rail industry as well as education.
The automotive & aerospace industries as well as the medical industry undoubtedly remain the sectors that have showcased the biggest number of applications. It goes without saying that, these sectors have contributed to the development of the additive manufacturing industry, but also to the development of industry 4.0 technologies.
However, while looking at the sectors we do not often hear a lot, we realized that experts are currently bringing an invaluable contribution to today’s and tomorrow’s world:
Last year for instance, the rail industry was said to be a nascent segment. This year, we’ve seen several applications of 3D Printed parts that have started to be used in trains on the on hand, on the other hand, new initiatives are designed to foster the adoption of AM by operators that ensure trains maintenance. Interestingly, the effective use of 3D printed parts in trains is not a small deal as it also requires that the 3D printed part meets the regulatory requirements/standards of the country in which the trains operate.
Furthermore, while in the art & fashion industries, 3D Printing enables to highlight artists’ creativity, it should be noted that most of the products are often available in limited quantity. With the ability to produce a tailor-made 3D printed product, we believe mass production has certainly become obsolete for manufacturers that leverage AM technologies.
In the food industry, the use of 3D Printing has gone beyond the simple purpose of decoration. We believe that in 2020, this segment will witness an increasing use of food 3D printers in homes. Indeed, companies have explored the use of food 3D printers to produce vitamins, a more sustainable and affordable meat, or even 3D Printed snacks from food waste. In general, food 3D Printing users are already addressing sustainability issues that experts from the other segments are trying to address.
Lastly, education. At all levels, programs are being set up to give professionals, students and kids more skills in AM/3D Printing. This has been a great trend in 2019 and it will still be a big one in 2020.
To sum up, 2019 has been an exciting year for the industry. At almost all levels, experts gave us hope that industries are ready for something better. However, despite the wide range of applications unveiled, AM technologies still raise an array of concerns for most operators, so the real question would be to know when exactly they will be ready?
Thank you all for being part of this year. We wish you a wonderful 2020, full of health, success in your achievements and obviously a lot of innovative ideas. It’s been a true pleasure to discuss and track the latest trends of the industry throughout 2019 and we can’t wait to continue this mission in 2020.
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