End-industry based approach for 3D printing materials

FS-Logo-Blue-600x315The 3D printing industry grows and the technology is gradually used in more and more types of production, so it is necessary to develop new and innovative 3D printing materials. American growth partnership company Frost & Sullivan has found that companies that supply materials must continue to move from a product-based approach to an end-industry based approach. In other words, rather than adopt a “one-material-fits all” strategy, 3D printing material suppliers should begin to focus on developing application-based material products.

Frost & Sullivan lays out how important 3D printing materials are to realizing 3D printing technology’s full potential, as well as how the materials industry can begin to put its focus towards this. As it points out, some superior 3D printing materials have been developed, such as polyetherimide (PEI), polyaryletherketone (PAEK), a  semi-crystalline thermoplastic, carbon-fiber reinforced grades, and a number of high performance metal powders, but more material development and innovation are needed for optimizing 3D printing manufacturing capabilities.

At the center of this discussion are both the chemicals market and chemical manufacturers who supply raw materials. As Frost & Sullivan’s Visionary Science Industry Manager Deepak Karthikeyan explains, “While opportunities are expanding, the chemicals market is held back to some extent because most chemical manufacturers supplying raw materials and formulations do not have a dedicated supply strategy in place for the 3D printing market. This can be attributed to the low volumes in the market and the relatively huge investments the suppliers need to make.”

Moreover, even though current volumes for 3D printing materials are low, a high demand does exist for technical support from both system manufacturers and users. This disparity, rather unfortunately, has translated into high costs for raw materials. As the press release continues, “To mitigate the price and raw material challenges, solution suppliers have to scout for possible acquisition opportunities based on the product portfolio and market expertise.”

Currently, and as one can well imagine, the demand for certain types of 3D printing materials such as plastic filaments and powders is quite high and rising as both are used on an industrial level, often for prototyping, and on a consumer scale with FFF and SLA 3D printing technologies. In terms of metal 3D printing, the demand for metal powders is also gradually rising, as sectors such as the aerospace, automotive, and health care industries are increasingly reliant on electron beam melting (EBM) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) to manufacture not only prototypes but also end-products.

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