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Aluminium Alloy Additive Manufacturing To See 40% CAGR

Aluminium Alloy Additive Manufacturing To See 40% CAGR

Aluminium additive manufacturing (AM) has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years, moving from one of the more difficult to process metals with typical laser powder bed fusion (PBF) equipment to one of the most widely demanded materials in the industry. According to a new report by SmarTech Analysis, aluminium alloy materials accounted for almost 10 percent of all printed metal content in 2018, resulting in a 43 percent growth in aluminium powder shipments by a supply chain that is rapidly maturing to catch up to other metal segments. SmarTech expects 2019 and subsequent years to achieve similar growth rates.

To date, almost all commercial activity has been centralised to powder bed fusion of aluminium casting alloys, but since 2017 real efforts to develop new printable alloys and increase the process stability of aluminium in laser-based AM equipment has begun to expand the scope of aluminium printing. Today, aluminium has become a material of special focus by various stakeholders in the industry, from suppliers of aluminium goods and powders, to AM print technology developers, to metal AM service providers.

As the industry now moves to more widespread use of both wrought alloy formulations and specialty aluminium alloys developed specifically for AM processing, the aluminium segment is primed for fast growth along with the rest of the metal AM industry.

Aluminium additive manufacturing (AM) has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years.

Aluminium additive manufacturing (AM) has grown by leaps and bounds over the last several years.

Other key findings from the report are as follows:

  • SmarTech believes there are two notable major developments that are occurring today since the publication of its last study that are influencing the market to new directions. One of these is the global supply chain for aluminium metal materials in manufacturing appears to have ‘crossed the threshold’ in supporting additive manufacturing as a major next-generation opportunity in aluminium manufacturing. In this way, research, support, supply, and interest in aluminium AM is now beginning to catch up to being equal with the titanium, nickel, and steel industries with regards to additive technologies.
  • The continued development and challenges associated with developing solutions for printing of aluminium parts via bound metal printing processes—whether bound metal deposition or metal binder jetting processes—are ongoing. However, many stakeholders in these areas have shifted focus to other more immediately impactful materials like steels. Sintering of printed green stage aluminium parts is likely to be commercialised, but SmarTech expects that aluminium printing will be highly concentrated in the PBF segment for the foreseeable future, acting as a competitive insulator for PBF against other metal AM processes.
  • Development and commercialisation of aluminium alloys for printing has increased significantly, in all major groups of aluminium alloy classifications. Though SmarTech still expects that AM-specific, specialised alloys containing rare-earth or transition metal elements will play a large role in the future of aluminium printing, we now anticipate strong growth in printing of popular wrought alloy formulations which have been slightly tweaked for stability and economic processing using additive technologies. This is also true, perhaps to a slightly lesser degree, in casting formulations, creating a much more diverse aluminium AM opportunity in the next five years than existed just a few years ago.

 

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Automotive Additive Manufacturing Market Sees $9B Opportunity On The Horizon

Automotive Additive Manufacturing Market Sees $9B Opportunity On The Horizon

There is an increasing adoption of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies by key automakers, automotive parts suppliers and AM services catering to the automotive segment. According to a new report by SmarTech Analysis, the segment is expected to see an overall $9 billion opportunity by 2029, including a more than $4 billion yearly revenue opportunity from AM applications in tools and final parts production.

The transitional shifts from 3D printing for prototyping to 3D printing production—and from traditional, formative (analogue) manufacturing to digital additive manufacturing—are not as streamlined as was initially envisioned. As the technology evolves, it becomes increasingly clear that addressing the specific final part production requirements of adopting industrial segments is a task that is several orders of magnitude greater than the production of functional prototypes.

Thus, the investments required are also several orders of magnitude greater. These larger investments are driven and—SmarTech expects—will continue to be driven by potential rewards, in terms of business opportunities, that are several orders of magnitude greater than those deriving from limiting the scope of additive manufacturing to its current use in prototyping.

Report Highlights

  • SmarTech Analysis expects that, as the overall automotive parts and accessories segment grows into a $460 billion market by 2025—and could thus near $500 billion by 2029—the AM opportunity is expected to grow into an overall $9 billion business.
  • New additive manufacturing systems and technologies, which have just begun to enter commercial availability, are now increasingly able to provide larger parts, larger part batches and faster production capabilities, both via hardware evolution and increased process automation, along with more readily available end-use materials. As SmarTech Analysis forecasted a year ago, the current period is of fundamental importance for defining AM adoption by the automotive segment.
  • Although Europe currently leads in metal AM and the Americas lead in polymer AM adoption, China is expected to generate the most revenues in automotive AM in terms of cumulative revenues throughout the forecast period. The United States is the second largest market and Germany is the third, each dominating their respective geographic areas.
  • The average price of metal systems—which is currently very high and approaching $500,000—is expected to decrease significantly over the course of the forecast period due to widespread adoption of affordably priced bound metal filament systems. These systems currently have an average cost of about $75,000 and are expected to gradually decrease to about $50,000 by the end of the forecast period.
  • Adoption of polymer AM in automotive manufacturing is focusing on certain materials specifically; nylon (mainly PA12 but also various other PA grades) and ABS are expected to continue to enjoy widespread adoption—especially in composite variants integrating carbon fibre (for lightweight and strength) or glass fibre for high temperature resistance. SmarTech is also seeing increased adoption of elastomers such as TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and PP (polypropylene).
  • In metals, much of the focus in automotive remains on steel, the most widely used metal both in automotive and AM, as well as on titanium for high end automotive applications, mainly in motor sports or one-off and short batch production runs. For the future, aluminium—which is widely used for prototyping today—is seen as a key material for lightweight, more affordable end use part production both through metal PBF and—possibly—by binder jetting processes.

 

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Outlook For Additive Manufacturing With Copper: 51% CAGR Through 2027

Outlook For Additive Manufacturing With Copper: 51% CAGR Through 2027

Copper additive manufacturing (AM) is a rapidly expanding opportunity within the AM industry, thanks to a wave of technical developments which have begun to enable reliable, high quality printing of copper and copper alloys. As a result, commercial entities have begun to ramp up internal research and investments to capitalise on opportunities in industrial markets for copper components, with long term potential in electronics and medical devices setting the stage for copper materials to become one of the most influential in the broader metal AM industry.

According to a new market study titled ‘Copper Additive Manufacturing 2019 Market Database and Outlook’ by SmarTech Market Publishing, shipments of copper powders to additive manufacturing (AM) users grew by 45 percent in 2018, with an expected 60 percent growth during 2019. Fuelled by key technical developments in copper additive processes and materials, AM has the potential to create disruptive copper component applications in industrial markets in the immediate future, as solutions continue to be adopted and refined. From 2019 to 2027, the copper AM industry is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 51 percent.

Copper printing exploration has been ongoing for many years, with published research dating back to at least 2010, according to SmarTech. The largest market catalyst came in 2016 with the development and certification of printing of copper alloys, as well as pure copper, utilising metal powder bed fusion technologies (both laser and electron beam variants) for the production of copper induction coils.

Copper materials are being explored within each of the three primary metal AM print technology families today, but their chemistry does present challenges to processing using established or ‘conventional’ metal AM system configurations in most available technologies. To overcome these challenges, SmarTech believes there are three primary avenues of technical development which are influencing the overall adoption of copper printing:

  • Alterations to or adaptations of hardware architecture of existing printing systems
  • Tailoring of material properties and powder characteristics of copper materials used
  • Development of alternative metal additive printing technologies suited to copper printing

 

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Additive Manufacturing Metals Outlook: Nickel Superalloys

Additive Manufacturing Metals Outlook: Nickel Superalloys

In the metal additive manufacturing (AM) segment, nickel superalloys are becoming one of the most advanced and high value metals amongst all printable metals in 2019. According to a new report by SmarTech Analysis, the nickel powder group of alloys is expected reach $450 million in worldwide sales to users of metal 3D printing technologies by 2027. This growth will be driven by a similar expansion in other popular nickel alloys, which has been seen over the last year within the nickel superalloy subsegment.

Nickel alloys are some of the most widely used materials for applications with an extreme operating environment, making them commonly found in industries and applications in which metal AM techniques are already being explored and applied. This is a net advantage for the development of the nickel AM market, because the historical use of metal AM techniques like laser powder bed fusion have been, for the most part, relegated to high performance, high value components due to the cost structure of the technologies, the report said.

The early R&D in nickel superalloys for aerospace engine components was also successfully ported to other industries where similar turbomachinery applications require performance similar to jet engines, especially in power generation for oil and gas and general energy markets, making materials like Hastelloy some of the most widely printed materials today. More recently, however, nickel materials have begun to gradually creep into other areas of application beyond the areas of turbomachinery and aerospace propulsion systems. SmarTech anticipates that in the near term, nickel alloys will continue to see widespread expansion, especially through the development of printing parameters specific to new commonly used nickel alloys outside of the typical superalloys used today, for alloys such as the Monel family, Invar family, Incoloy family, and various Haynes nickel materials.

 

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Compact Industrial Metal Printer Market Outlook

Compact Industrial Metal Printer Market Outlook

Although still in its infancy, the ‘compact industrial’ metal printer market is poised to generate nearly US$112 million in revenue in 2019 and reach over US$1.05 billion by 2027, according to a new report by market analyst SmarTech Analysis.

This sub-segment of metal additive manufacturing hardware has a more accessible price-point, shorter learning curve, and compact footprint, while still offering industrial-level quality. Compact industrial metal printers address a significant hole in the marketplace and creates a lower-level entry point for new industrial users of metal 3D printing technology.

The growth of metal additive manufacturing as a whole will be aided directly and indirectly by the introduction and refinement of this growing class of metal 3D printers. Not only does the introduction of these new technologies give accessibility to a new group of customers, but they will greatly aid the education and further development of 3D printing as a manufacturing tool across industries and applications.

These compact industrial metal printing solutions give accessibility to an entirely new segment of the market. With a total system cost of less than US$200,000, and minimal set-up requirements, industrial customers now have an increasing number of options to aid in their exploration of metal additive manufacturing.

The most recognisable technologies in this market are the material extrusion technologies, specifically by Desktop Metal and Markforged, which are poised to grow dramatically. By borrowing heavily from materials science established within metal injection moulding (MIM), bound metal deposition techniques are experiencing a much higher adoption rate than earlier additive manufacturing technologies. It is within this subsegment that is seeing a lot of growth for the compact industrial metal printing market.

On the other hand, integration of directed energy deposition (DED) technologies with subtractive CNC machining tools has grown significantly in the last couple years and helped to establish a stronger link between the additive and subtractive digital manufacturing processes. Furthermore, continued improvements within powder bed fusion (PBF) technologies are being implemented in two ways: improved productivity and increased accessibility, with the latter driving the compact industrial metal printing market growth.

 

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Five Reasons Why Companies Are Turning To AM

Five Reasons Why Companies Are Turning to AM

Additive manufacturing of metal is popular, but some end user companies are reticent about in-house printing of metals parts. Article by SmarTech.

This is, we believe, a powerful factor creating opportunities for metal additive manufacturing service bureaus. This article defines five factors that have some service bureaus planning for a doubling the number of metal machines in 2019.

Metals Printing Can be Trouble

In the future service bureaus are likely to lose business to in-house 3D printer deployments for polymer printing, but their metals business may increase. Additive manufacturing with polymers is more user-friendly than metals printing making the capital and expertise easier for end users to move the process in-house. There are more process parameters and knowledge involved with metal printing. And, on the materials side, new metals may require special techniques and expertise that are not easily or quickly achieved in-house. This “tribal” knowledge will help service bureaus keep their competitive advantage longer as metal AM becomes more cost-effective and user-friendly.

Metal 3D printers will reduce in cost in the next few years – we have already seen how this could happen from the latest HP and Desktop Metal products. Nonetheless, SmarTech Analysis believes that the combination service provider knowledge, supply chain efficiencies, and high-capital cost will keep metal service bureaus competitive for the foreseeable future.

The “Hot Topic Effect”

The current high level of publicity being afforded to metal printing automatically enhances the prospects for metal service bureaus. Hot topics are, by definition, of immediate importance, but they tend to cool down relatively quickly. It is to be expected that metal additive manufacturing will eventually become less hot as it matures and becomes just another process in the engineering toolbox. Yet, less attention doesn’t necessarily mean that market growth would stop, just that investors’ enthusiasm might shrink.

Lack of User Capital and Low ROI

A classic driver for companies to not 3D print in-house is that some companies just don’t have the capital. The impact of this market driver in metal AM is likely to intensify in the future as more end-user firms find they have a need for metal AM but cannot justify the capex.

Service bureaus also offer a way for companies to dip their toes in the AM metals business without having to invest heavily in the equipment, expertise, or time associated with bringing the process in-house. Some companies may even have the capital, but due to fluctuations and volumes the return on investment (ROI) of in-house metal AM is too low to make it viable. Offering metal 3D printing won’t tie down a service bureau, and a company can test the market to verify a parts value before investing the capital to move production in-house.

Size, Complexity and Service Bureaus

Service bureaus may be able to handle large and complex parts more effectively and efficiently than in-house printing can. Being able to process large parts will give a service bureau additional value. Bringing metal printing in-house is already difficult enough, adding larger more expensive equipment adds complexity.

Finally, understanding different materials, process capabilities, and how complex features can change a design will be the experience service bureaus should have that will prevent or delay companies from moving in-house. Simple design concepts, post processing, and even part orientation can help produce a better product.

Industry Focus Helps

Expertise in a particular industry provides a competitive advantage for service bureaus. It enables a service bureau to better understand its customers and for both customers and service bureaus to interact in a more effective way. As a result, some service bureaus are specializing in customers from the aerospace industry or the medical sector. Specialized automotive service bureaus are also expected to appear in the near future.

These comments apply to polymer AM as well as metals AM, but we note that specialist aerospace and automotive bureaus both have a strong metals orientation. Metals service bureaus that understand the needs, operations and traditions of big metal-using industry sectors are in a better position to win customers than those who don’t.

 

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