Big Picture - August 2017 - 28
US 3D PRINTING SERVICE REVENUE ($M)
technology platform is established, the capabilities of
FDM-based printers continue to expand. Printers are getting
faster, build sizes are getting larger, and more suppliers offer
multiple extrusion head printers that have multi-material and
multicolor printing capabilities.
Another interesting printer technology was shown by
Mimaki at the ISA Sign Expo this year. Mimaki's 3D printer,
based on UV-LED technology, is unlike many of the other
solutions available on the market because it's a full-color printer.
At the tradeshow, Mimaki illustrated how 3D printing could be
integrated into a typical business, in this case a sporting goods
shop. Mimaki showed a number of samples of custom bicycle
parts and accessories that were produced on the 3D printer.
One of the fastest-growing technology segments is
stereolithography (SLA), which IDC expects to grow, in
shipment terms, at a rate of over 25 percent from 2016 to
2021. SLA printers are getting faster, prices are coming
down, more of the thermoplastics they consume are being
developed, and systems are being automated to match
The fastest growing technology segment, according to
IDC research, is powder-bed fusion 3D printers. This is where
many of the high-end metal printing systems are included and
it's where HP's Multi Jet Fusion is categorized. Some of the
original patents have expired in this segment, which is partly
why we're seeing a flurry of new products at much more
aggressive price points.
Some of IDC's research indicates a growing trend of manufacturers taking 3D printing in-house, which is natural as the
price of the systems comes down and the simplicity of
operation goes up. Still, IDC expects the revenue from
commercial 3D printing services in the US to grow from $1.26
billion in 2016 to over $2.75 billion in 2021 - a rate of almost
17 percent per year.
As the market for these systems has grown, several
constituencies have emerged to provide 3D printing services.
Some of the key vendors, especially at the high end of the
market, offer prototyping and on-demand parts manufacturing, but part of what they are doing is proving to customers
that their systems are viable solutions. Another important
group is the new set of online providers, companies like Sculpteo and Shapeways, that serve more or less as the Vistaprint
of the 3D printing industry in that they will do one-offs or
large, complex builds in any quantity or material because they
have access to a lot of different technologies. Also, retailers
and logistics companies, like Staples, UPS Stores, and The
Home Depot, have launched 3D printing initiatives. Finally,
the prototyping industry contains many companies that have
adopted 3D printing but also use their CNC routing, milling,
and injection molding systems for prototyping and smallbatch manufacturing.
Here are some recommendations for large-format PSPs
thinking about getting into 3D printing:
* Get up to speed: The latest 3D printing technologies
offer huge advantages over earlier generations. These
improvements make 3D printing faster, more accurate, and
higher in quality, and provide more colors and textures.
Understanding any necessary finishing and other postprocessing can be a huge differentiator.
* Observe the local market: In addition to the vendors
and online providers identified in this article, look at who else
in your area offers 3D printing services.
* Don't sell 3D printing on a cost-plus basis: You have to
sell your ability to fix some of the pain points that 3D printing
adopters have experienced, such as improving cycle times
and eliminating the learning curve.
* Look to partner with companies in a specific industry:
The field of 3D printing is so broad that trying to convince
customers that you know their industry, no matter what it is,
will likely leave you spinning your wheels.
* Find the synergy: This sounds like consultantspeak, but it's smart to look for ways to sell 3D printing
services to your existing customers, even if they're on the
promotional side of the market and not involved in industrialscale manufacturing of parts and pieces.
* Connect: Think social, mobile, and personal. Some sites,
such as 3D Hubs, offer the ability to produce 3D builds on a
paid basis for any company that has a 3D printer. Use your
social media presence to illustrate your capabilities and share
updates on projects you're working on. Also, go to maker
events where you can discuss what customers want and need
from 3D print providers. Many people who have a $300 home
3D printer will be amazed by how much better a professional