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The 3D printing materials market is set to jump past the $600 million (£374 million, €436 million) mark in the next decade or so as the industry continues to thrive.
This is according to a report released by industry research firm IDTechEx, which claims the market for 3D printing materials will be worth more than this benchmark figure by 2025 in its report 3D Printing Materials 2014-2025: Status, Opportunities, Market Forecasts by Dr Wendy Kneissl.
The document's forecast takes into account photopolymers, thermoplastics in solid form (filaments and pellets), thermoplastics in powder form, metal powders and powder-bed inkjet powders.
The market for photopolymers, it says, will retain the largest portion of the market over the coming 10 years, while other materials are anticipated to gain their share of the market as 3D printing and additive manufacturing technology matures in more industries as a final manufacturing solution rather than a tool for prototyping.
In terms of rates of growth, metal powder was identified as the fastest-expanding material as far as market share is concerned, although actual production will remain low. This combined with high raw material and processing prices will cause the price of metal additive manufacturing materials to fall much slower than other options such as plastics.
IDTechEx's research also identifies that the future of the materials market for 3D printing is something of a sticky wicket for commentators and leaders in the industry. This is because many 3D printing companies are employing so-called lock-in strategies on build materials using key coding and RFID tagging of material cartridges, which can be considered anti-competitive by creating monopolies within the marketplace. This in turn can encumber development of new 3D printing materials making it more challenging for new companies and third party suppliers entering the market.
The report states: "For any given material class, market size is more sensitive to the installed base of the corresponding 3D printer technology than to the actual price of the materials themselves. Should material prices increase, only a small reduction in the average utilisation rate of the printer installed base is required for the market size to actually fall as a result."
It concludes that downward pressure on the price of 3D printing materials in the short-mid term will be powered by new 3D printer manufacturers that allow users to purchase materials from third party suppliers as well as downward pressure from large end users wielding major buying power.