Feasibility of Raw Materials in the 3D Printing Market

Published Date : Jul 14, 2014

Overview of 3D Printing and Raw Materials

3D printing materials [http://www.marketresearchreports.biz/analysis/177081] sales heavily depend on the growth of the 3D printing market. 3D printing also known as rapid prototyping helps to manufacture 3D objects which are quickly made using a large printer. This printer is connected to a computer which contains the blueprint for the object. The basic principles of 3D printing are similar to that of 2D printing. Both use flexibility of output, material cartridges, and translation of code into a visible pattern.

3D printing is now under a great amount of speculation and enthusiasm in the media. It is supposed to be the next big thing in the industrial revolution which will also help to in-source manufacturing jobs back to the Western countries.

Materials Involved in 3D Printing

3D printer manufacturers are locking customers by providing their own material supplies using key-coding and RFID tagging for material cartridges. This is an anti-competitive practice and helps the manufacturers to monopolize the price of the materials. Here are the various types of 3D printing materials which are used in 3D printing.

Photopolymers: It is basically a polymer which after curing becomes solid due to light exposure. A photopolymer is maintained in a liquid state; upon exposure to light it becomes solid. Photopolymers are commonly used in 3D printing. It helps to fabricate a solid object using a computer blueprint. Polymers are used in combination with this process to make stamps which are affordable than real rubber. It is achieved using a metal plate which is coated with a photopolymer film and a print of the desired image on a transparent surface. Then the photopolymer plate and print gets exposed to UV light. This helps to engrave the photopolymer with the print.

Thermoplastics in Solid Form (Filaments and Pellets): Production-grade thermoplastics materials in solid form are used in an additive layer manufacturing process which is called fused deposition modeling (FDM). It helps to create both prototype and end-use parts. It works by laying down materials in layer. Then the plastic filament or metal wire is used from a coil which supplies material to manufacture a part.

Thermoplastics in Powder Form: Thermoplastics in powder form are used in the process selective heat sintering. It is a type of additive manufacturing technique. A thermal printhead applies heat to the various layers of powdered thermoplastic. Once the layer is done, the powdered bed moves down and an auto roller adds another layer of material which gets sintered to form the next cross-section part of the model.

Metal Powders: Electronic beam melting (EBM) is a type of additive making technology used for metal parts. EBM helps to manufacture parts by melting metal powder layer by layer using an electron beam in environment of high vacuum. The process which uses metal powder in 3D printing is called laser sintering. This process when carried out with metal powders requires much high powered lasers compared to those which use plastic for laser sintering.

Powder-bed Inkjet: Powder-bed and inkjet 3D printing is a technology which is used for manufacturing objects using computer data. In this process an inkjet printhead moves across a bed of powder and deposits a liquid binding material selectively. Thin layer of powder gets spread across the finished section. Then again the process is performed with each layer adhering to the previous one. Once the model is complete the unbound powder gets manually removed and sometimes reused.

Market Scope

The market for polymers is supposed to retain the largest single chunk in the market till 2025. However, other materials market share will grow in terms of production which will be fueled by the switch from prototyping/tooling applications to the final product output. Highest growth will be observed in the market for metal powder. However, the production is currently being placed at less than 30 tons a year. In combination with this and the high price of raw material processing, the price for the materials will decline slowly than other 3D printing materials.

Extensive interviews with the end-users and material developers indicated that the prices are declining. This will help to modulate the growth of the market even though, there is mass production increase in line with the increase of the cumulative installed base. However, if there is a hike in the material prices then only a little reduction in the average rate of utilization of the printer installed base is necessary for the market size to decline.

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