Protolabs 3D Printing Trend Report Reveals accelerated industry growth

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  • A survey of more than 700 members of the global engineering community and key market data identify the current and future state of additive manufacturing.
Protolabs 3D printing trend report reveals accelerated industry growth
Protolabs 3D printing trend report reveals accelerated industry growth/Source: Protolabs

Protolabs, a prominent digital manufacturing service provider, recently released the 3D Printing Trend Report, which provides a picture of the additive manufacturing market and identifies new trends as applications for 3D printing’s continued growth. The research was created using significant market data and a poll of over 700 members of the global engineering community.

Protolabs‘ annual study shows a strong level of trust in the 3D printing business, which is increasing the possibility for production-level manufacturing as the technology’s applications grow beyond prototyping. Furthermore, micro and large-format applications continue to grow.

Key findings of 3D Printing Trend Report

  • The 3D printing market is expected to reach $28.1 billion in 2024, expanding 10.5% faster than previously forecast.
  • Market will reach $57.1 billion by the end of 2028.
  • 70 percent of enterprises printed more components in 2023 than in 2022.
  • 77% said the medical sector has the highest potential for influence.
  • Agriculture and electronics saw the greatest increase in 3D printing (87%) and 83%, respectively.
  • 47% of respondents said lead time was the main reason they chose 3D printing over other methods.
  • 82% of respondents reported significant cost savings from 3D printing.
  • Spain/Portugal has the highest use of Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) technology (27%), followed by the UK/Ireland (18%).
  • The introduction of new materials such as TPU for powder-based printing technologies and HP’s new nylon-based material for MJF printers, which provide cost effectiveness and excellent reusability.

3D Printing’s Potential for Production

The data illustrates that 3D printing is progressively progressing from prototyping to production applications. Protolabs’ yearly report demonstrates a consistent growth in production-run volumes: Respondents who reported printing more than 10 pieces increased from 36% in 2020 to 49% in 2021 and 76% in 2023.

The thinking surrounding additive and production is gradually evolving as well. “Production volume and scale” were cited by 45% of survey respondents as reasons for selecting other production processes over 3D printing, down from 47% the previous year.

Innovative Materials on the Rise

Moving forward, the report concluded that increasing the availability of materials and related technologies will be critical in creating future use cases. For example, over one-third of respondents said multi-material printing would have the greatest impact on 3D printing growth, trailing only hybrid manufacturing, which mixes additive technology with traditional services.

Industry experts believe that highly specialised materials tailored for 3D printing applications are entering the market, opening up even more opportunities for innovation.  

“Companies are designing blends actually tailored for 3D printing. They’re creating a lot of materials that are geared for very specific applications within 3D printing, whether that’s conventional thermoplastics that have been re-engineered for 3D printing, or resins that aren’t just for prototyping, but for very specialized, high-temperature, high-elasticity types of applications.”

– Adam Hecht from 3DP design studio DIVE

Where AI is Taking the Technology

As the enthusiasm of AI spreads to practically every industry, 3D printing is no exception. According to Protolabs, the major promise of an AI-disrupted sector has yet to be realised; nonetheless, smart printers are becoming smarter and providing a better user experience. Nearly a third of respondents selected automated print tuning as the most significant influence of AI, followed by non-planar FDM printing via enhanced slicer software (25%). Topology optimisation, multiphysics process simulation, and AI-generated CAD are all examples of AI advancements that will assist additive manufacturing design.

Protolabs serves customers all around the world as an additive manufacturing partner, using plastic and metal 3D printing technologies to meet their prototype and production demands. In 2023, Protolabs’ 3D printing business produced more than $84 million in revenue from its quick-turn facilities and Protolabs Network industrial partners.

About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter. Follow us on Google News.

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About author
Abhimanyu Chavan is the founder of Manufactur3D Magazine. He writes on Additive Manufacturing technology, interviews industry leaders, shares industry insights, and expresses his thoughts on the latest developments in the industry. You can follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
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