3D metal market growth accelerates – how can SMEs keep up with the pace?

Market researcher ResearchAndMarkets.com published a report ”3D Printing Metals Market by Form, Type, End-Use Industry, and Region – Global Forecast to 2023” which states that the global 3D printing metals market is projected to grow from USD 590 million in 2018 to USD 2.08 Billion by 2023. At the same time annual report by Wohlers Associates Inc notes that the sale of metal additive manufacturing (AM) systems increased by 80 % between 2016 to 2017 (Wohlers Report 2018). These are remarkable figures which indicates that additive manufacturing of metals has grown rapidly and will accelerate its growth in the near future.

AM technologies, machines and materials are constantly evolving and the fact is, that the industrial-grade additive manufacturing system for metal printing is a considerable investment in the SMEs. In many cases the investment and its risks are found to be too high. Another ”bottleneck” is the lack of education and experience in the 3D metal printing process which also raise the threshold for investments. However, if an enterprise wants to be a part of the always growing and develpoping 3D metal market, the time to make a move is right now. The first wave of the companies printing metals has already quite a long lead.

RDI partnership as a cure

Quick solution to get involved to the AM technologies and business is to find a partner who already masters it. This partner could be for example another company, a university or other educational establishment or an RDI organization with equipments and experience in 3D printing. This way it is possible to gain experience and knowledge in metal printing and to explore the possibilities it offers without the high investement risks. Especially design methods in additive manufacturing differ significantly from traditional methods used in machining and casting and this is thing you learn only through experience.

One example of the RDI enviroments with additive manufacturing technologies is ELME Studio in Nivala, Finland. The focus of ELME Studio is to offer for SMEs opportunity to take over new production technologies and to act as and prototyping and demonstration environment. In ELME Studio there is a modern fully equipped metal printing laboratory managed by Nivala Industrial Park LTD and it works in close cooperation with the Future Manufacturing Technologies (FMT) research group of University of Oulu. As a result, ELME Studio can offer high performance metal printing facility with university-level research and expertise to support and boost SMEs’ business activities and lower the threshold to plunge into hugely growing 3D metal printing business.

Kari Kutuniva

Development Director, Nivala Industrial Park LTD