ARC study: Additive manufacturing creates ‘powerful incentive’
The additive manufacturing systems market for industrial applications has made a strong recovery since the recession in 2009. In 2012, the market reached a milestone in overall revenues for machinery and services, as shipments surpassed $1 billion. Furthermore, market dynamics have been robust as acquisitions, channel expansion, and numerous startups are staking a claim in a market that is clearly transitioning through the early adopter stage for industrial manufacturing at a rapid pace, according to a new ARC Advisory Group global market research study.
The synergy of digital modeling with additive manufacturing is a driving force for adoption in the market that will sustain double digit growth rates over the next five years. Manufacturers seek a competitive advantage with additive manufacturing systems in an effort to overcome hurdles in traditional design processes. The possibilities of designing complex structures, cost effectively, allows manufacturers to envisage concept designs previously cost prohibitive due to development constraints.
“Due to the geometric freedom the technology affords and the absence of a penalty for designing more complex parts, additive manufacturing should create a powerful incentive for innovation,” according to research analyst Scott Evans, the principal author of ARC’s “Additive Manufacturing Systems Global Market Research Study."
While most additive technologies using plastic build materials have existed for several decades, the development of additive manufacturing systems with the ability to fabricate metal parts and objects is an exciting new development. Many industries are attracted to valuable metals, such as titanium, as build materials. That material is built up rather than cut away creates tremendous savings in materials costs.
The ability to actualize complex digital designs opens up new possibilities for industrial design. It is now easier to create representations of entire systems, creating value throughout the entire design phase. Because of the unrestricted geometric freedom the technology affords, additive’s advantage is not only restricted to how it will streamline the current product design phase, but how it introduce designs not even considered yet.
However, while both metal and plastic build materials have the potential to enhance production and even open up new design possibilities, they also come with a number of limitations. Most systems are still too slow to justify producing anything but the most complicated designs. Unless the fabricated object is of tremendous value and complexity, there is likely no economic justification to switch to additive.
With all major suppliers currently residing in the United States, Western Europe, and Israel, additive manufacturing’s customer base is mostly local to these areas. But additive manufacturing will increase its global appeal with the continued emergence in Latin America and Asia. In particular, ARC expects the impending commercialization of additive technologies currently in the research stages, many of which are developed at Chinese universities. Additive manufacturing will transition from a regional to a global technology.