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Industry Insights|3D Printing is Entering a Golden Era, Especially in China

The first annual 3D Printing Sentiment Index of 2019 is released by Ultimaker a few days ago, clearly demonstrating the current and future potential of 3D printing technology development in twelve countries around the world, covering the broadest vertical and professional fields including the education industry. According to data in this report, USA, UK, and Germany have the highest expectation for implementing additive manufacturing and taking full use of this technology. As ranked NO.5 in the list, China is becoming a promising market worthy of attention and expected to rise up the index in the future.

The report has estimated three different areas: market awareness and adoption, the adoption level over time, and the overall views of the potential impact of the technology. Based on interviews with 2,548 qualified professionals and in-depth analysis of macroeconomic factors, a total of six key factors were investigated: market awareness, application and installation base, 3D printing technology growth indicators, future impact and optimistic expectations, and the ease of adoption.

Overall, 67% of the respondents are currently familiar with the two terms "3D printing" and "additive manufacturing", 35% of them have adopted the technology, and only 10% of users have been implementing the 3D printing technology for five years. In addition, 65% of the interviewed participants believe that 3D printing technology is revolutionizing their industry, and 40% of them think 3D printing will bring significant improvements in operating efficiency and cost saving to their business in the next 12 months. Data all show the optimistic prospect of 3D printing. As it grows more and more mature, more and more people will utilize 3D printing technology, and commercially benefiting from it in a short or medium term.

Market Awareness of 3D Printing
According to the survey, the Netherlands (83%), Switzerland (82%) and the United States (77%) have the highest awareness of 3D printing technology. The Netherlands is often considered as the 3D printing technology pioneer in the world as some leading 3D printing companies are all based in the Netherlands. Switzerland has strong growth in both manufacturing and research fields where 3D printing has a high level of innovation and adoption.

During the interview, 83% of the respondents said that more and more people now acknowledge that 3D printing technology has played a powerful role in helping companies create prototypes and bring innovative ideas to life over the years. Many market participants believe that tool manufacturing and mass production are feasible areas for 3D printing to unleash super power.

Adoption Level of 3D Printing
By surveying the total number of companies adopting 3D printing technology over 5 years determines, it is possible to determine the current adoption level of technology in countries all over the world. In China, about 53% of companies have adopted 3D printing technology, with 11% of those having used it for over 5 years. In the following list are the US (34% adopted 3D printing technology, and 19% used it Five years and above), and France (42% have adopted 3D printing technology and 8% have used it for five years and above). The above mentioned three countries are clearly ahead of the global average.

Nearly 80% of investigated companies said they are using their 3D printers for prototyping, which is now almost as common as prototype manufacturing. Furthermore, up to 50% of users are producing end-use parts by 3D printing. Therefore, the technology is being applied by more people in more industries.

At present, the main materials used for 3D printing are plastic or polymer materials as the first choice for most users (82%). Besides, those who use carbon fiber and various composite materials for 3D printing are accounting for about 22%. As well as this, the tiny minority of using professional materials such as metal and wood composites to print as well.

The Current and Future Investment of 3D Printing
When talking about the current and future investment of 3D printing technology with 67% of the respondents, those who are from China, India and the Netherlands had the highest budgets and the highest planned investment in the next 12 months.  Wang Peng, the Secretary-General of China's Additive Manufacturing Industry Alliance, said “3D printing technology is entering the golden age in China. After years of development, it has entered the rapid development period from the concept introduction period to the rapid development stage, which is quite helpful for manufacturing factories to upgrade.”Due to the current low installation bases in India and the Netherlands, an increase in investment is inevitable due to positive sentiment.