Much more than the printer

BOSTON, November 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — The centerpiece of additive manufacturing has always been the 3D printer; The industry has been built on a foundation of different printing technologies, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, capabilities and limitations, and most compatible applications. In fact, in IDTechEx’s latest “3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook” report, more than thirty different 3D printing technologies were analyzed on technical parameters such as build rate, resolution, price, etc., to establish their individual performance. among other printing technologies. It is important to note that the unique characteristics of each type of technology help develop the 3D printing industry by making new applications accessible for additive manufacturing.

3D ecosystem. Source: IDTechEx

However, with so much focus on 3D printers, it can be easy to lose sight of the many other important industries that make 3D printing possible, especially industrial additive manufacturing. It takes an entire ecosystem, including materials, software, post-processing, quality assurance, services, specialized training, and more, for 3D printing to be used in high-intensity industries and applications. added value. It is the maturation of all aspects of AM that is driving its increased adoption by end users.

In this article, IDTechEx will present some important elements of the AM ecosystem and discuss developments in these areas to see how other parts of the 3D printing industry are evolving.


Historically, 3D printed parts have struggled to compete with conventionally manufactured parts (i.e. machined parts, injection molded parts, etc.) partly because of their mechanical and material performance. weaker. Therefore, significant efforts are being made by 3D printing companies (including material suppliers like BASF and Arkema) to address these shortcomings from a materials perspective. One of the most popular approaches to improving performance is reinforcements like carbon and glass fibers; a more advanced class of reinforcements are nanocarbon fillers like graphene and carbon nanotubes, which are beginning to be incorporated into commercial 3D printing materials. Another approach is to make high-performance but hard-to-process materials like high-temperature thermoplastics and foams more printable. It is important to recognize that different printing technologies require different material enhancements to optimize overall performance. A more in-depth discussion of 3D printing materials market developments can be found in IDTechEx’s report “3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook”.

Post treatment

Post-processing refers to the step(s) performed after 3D printing to complete the manufacturing of a single part. This is often the last or penultimate step of the additive manufacturing process (the last step can be quality assurance). Post-treatment for AF includes a set of techniques; some are specific to AM (ie support removal, depowdering), while others are used in other manufacturing processes (ie surface finishing, metal annealing treatments). Some post-processing techniques are required after printing, while others are optional but often performed to improve certain aspects of the printed part (i.e. mechanical performance, appearance, etc.) .

As 3D printing is increasingly used for medium to high volume parts, post-processing becomes increasingly essential to make printed parts suitable for end-use applications. To meet this need, several companies specializing in AM post-processing, such as DyeMansion, AMT, and PostProcess Technologies, produce post-processing equipment capable of processing larger volumes of parts. These machines are designed to process a large number of parts and to be as automated as possible to reduce the overall production time of 3D printed parts. The rapid growth of these companies over the past five years, along with their growing partnerships with established printer manufacturers, makes post-processing an interesting AM-related sector to watch over the next decade.


As a digital manufacturing technique, 3D printing integrates software into every step of the production process. To help extend the reach of AM to end users, the most popular goal of 3D printing software development is to make it easier for end users to adopt AM. For example, companies like Xerox are developing software tools to advise end users on which parts are best suited to transition to 3D printing; such software attempts to streamline the adoption process by removing the need for any engineering consulting to identify the best places for AM in an organization. At the design stage, software start-ups like nTopology and ParaMatters produce tools to help create complex geometries for 3D printing, while others like Ansys produce simulation software to test the performance of printed parts. in 3D even before manufacturing.

After printing, inspection and quality assurance software compares 3D scans of the manufactured part to the original 3D model to identify discrepancies and defects, a critical step for parts used in highly regulated industries like aerospace and healthcare. Throughout the production process, workflow management software, such as those offered by 3YOURMIND, AMFG and AM-Flow, is needed to monitor the status of a given print project, from ordering to shipments. finals; this becomes especially critical when handling large volumes of prints, which many 3D printing companies aspire to do.

In other words, simplified and easy-to-learn software is needed at every stage of the 3D printing production process to enable increased AM adoption. This need is recognized throughout the industry, particularly by investors; around US$125 million had been invested in companies related to 3D printing software in 2021. Additionally, two of the top 10 fundraisers in the AM industry in 2021 were software companies – nTopology ($65 million in series D) and Oqton ($40 million in series A, pre-acquisition by 3D Systems). IDTechEx expects this investment trend to continue in 2022, as 21% of private funding for AM companies in the first half of 2022 went to 3D software companies (up from 2021).


Decades of the industry following the same business strategy have highlighted the difficulties inherent in selling printers to end users. The biggest barrier to entry is that customers have to find the budget for expensive printers and consumables that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of dollars per kilogram, respectively. When purchasing a 3D printer is not profitable or a hard sell for customers, service providers play an important role in providing access to 3D printing without requiring end users to have the know-how technical or expensive equipment and materials needed to operate AM printers.

It is worth noting here the growing number of service providers with their own proprietary printing technology. Rather than selling the printers using their proprietary technology like traditional 3D printer manufacturers, they have chosen a different business strategy in which they keep their proprietary printing technology in-house to produce parts for customers. In this way, in-house production companies using their own proprietary technology like 3DEO, Holo and Bond3D are like vertically integrated OEMs. With this business model, these companies bypass many of the traditional barriers to adoption that come with bringing a new printing technology to market. Growth from service providers such as the ones mentioned is contributing to the expansion of a very important part of the 3D printing ecosystem, lowering the barriers to entry for end users exploring AM.

Market forecast for additive manufacturing

IDTechEx’s new report “3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing 2023-2033: Technology and Market Outlook” carefully segments the market into eighty different forecast lines across seventeen different technology categories, four major material categories and eight material subcategories. This Hardware and Hardware forecast analyzes future installations, Hardware unit sales, Hardware revenue, Hardware mass demand, and Hardware revenue. Additionally, IDTechEx provides comprehensive technology benchmarking studies, reviews and case studies of critical application areas, detailed discussion of ancillary areas of the AM industry, and in-depth market and economic analysis. Finally, IDTechEx carefully dissects the positive and negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting supply chain disruptions on the 3D printing market. Check out the IDTechEx report for more insights into this market, including 125 profiles based on interviews with market leaders and start-ups, technology comparison studies, business model analysis, and granular market forecasts on 10 years..

For more information about this report, including sample downloadable pages, please visit For the full 3D printing research portfolio available from IDTechEx, please visit

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