The evolution of 3D printers driven by severe pricing pressures has made concept modeling and rapid prototyping affordable to most end users. Undoubtedly, the growing trend toward rapid manufacturing has taken the industry to the next level.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (www.testandmeasurement.frost.com), World Rapid Prototyping Equipment Markets, reveals that the market earned revenues of $300.0 million in 2006 and estimates this to reach $859.4 million in 2013.
With prices of 3D printers ranging from $15,000 to $60,000, small companies find them extremely affordable to use for concept modeling and design optimization. In addition, the use of additive fabrication technology to directly manufacture the product has become increasingly popular, especially for low volume applications.
Rapid manufacturing is particularly useful when the part complexity is difficult to conceive in traditional manufacturing processes. Hearing-aid application in the medical industry is an example that is worth mentioning. Rapid manufacturing is expected to become mainstream in the future, and eventually drive the growth of the rapid prototyping equipment market.
"Even though rapid prototyping has been adopted early on by the automotive and aerospace markets, research indicates that only a handful of companies, about 15 to 20 percent of the end users worldwide, have taken advantage of the various rapid prototyping technologies," notes Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst S.Vidyasankar. "This clearly demonstrates that the technology's potential has not reached the end users over the years, and thus highlights the need to elevate their awareness levels."
End-user education should focus on the acquisition and cost of new equipment as well as the capabilities of various technologies such as stereolithography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM), jetted polymer techniques and their applications.
With rapid manufacturing gaining interest among end users, it is imperative for equipment manufacturers to educate the users to ensure sustenance for the market and accelerate the growth of the rapid prototyping equipment market in the future.
Furthermore, market participants may overcome this challenge by increasing their marketing efforts, participating in major industry events, and utilizing the Internet as a tool to keep end users as well as the industry abreast of the latest technological advancements within the rapid prototyping equipment market.
"There is also an increasing interest and growing trend toward services within the rapid prototyping market," notes Vidyasankar. "Even though many participants work closely with service bureaus, customers have forced rapid prototyping equipment manufacturers to provide services, thereby creating key opportunities for rapid prototyping vendors to develop their own service departments that meet customer requests for short-run rapid manufacturing and rapid prototyping needs and thereby grow in business."