3D printing industry estimated to be worth £12.9bn by 2025


The 3D printing industry is estimated to grow from £650m in 2012 to £12.9bn in 2025, according to a report from IDTechEx.

The report, titled "3D Printing 2015 - 2025: Technologies, Markets, Players - Current usage, future applications and market forecasts ", predicts the growth will be down to 'improvements in existing printing technologies and the development of completely new technologies'. The medium is still in its infancy with regards to the toy sector, but the IDTechEx report states that the oil and gas industry, an emerging user of 3D printing, boasts the highest forecast growth, followed by the aerospace industry.

IDTechEx has been tracking the 3D printing industry for years and all of the firm's information is collated in comprehensive databases of manufacturers, service bureaus and printers.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing was hyped as the technology to bring about a 3rd industrial revolution, but 3D printing technologies were in fact invented in the early 80s. They remained a niche technology until the expiration of a key patent in 2009 allowed many startups to emerge offering cheap consumer-level 3D printers. A media frenzy in 2012 thrust 3D printing into the limelight and major players are reporting dramatic growth in everything from consumer to high-end metal printers.

3D printing encompasses a variety of different printing processes. The processes are all primarily additive in nature, as materials are deposited only where needed, and thus results in significantly less materials wastage than traditional manufacturing techniques. Each of the technologies is suitable for use with a different range of materials, which in turn defines the suitable applications of the printer.

Originally used for the rapid production of prototypes for form and fit testing, applications are transitioning towards also functional testing of prototypes under working conditions, and further, the manufacture of final products.

With 3D printing designs are not constrained by manufacturing limitations and design complexity no longer adds cost. This opens up design avenues and enables the economic production of lighter components, critical to the aerospace and automotive industries. Applications are also emerging in the medical and dental fields, where the opportunity afforded by cheap mass customisation is allowing surgeons to replicate a patient's body based on MRI and CT scans in order to practice difficult invasive procedures, and medical and dental implants which are fully customised to a particular individual can be generated.

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