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Could 2019 be 3D printing’s year?

Deloitte’s annual predictions for major technology trends suggest that 3D printing industry is on the cusp of a “plateau of productivity” and is set to grow by more than 10% this year.

The prediction is one of eight major trends identified by Deloitte in its 2019 Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions.

In 2019 and 2020 the 3D printing industry is set to grow at approximately 12.5 per cent a year, more than double the rate seen in 2015 and 2016. Sales related to 3D printing by large companies are forecast to surpass £2.1 billion this year and £2.4 billion in 2020.

This is largely because 3D printers are now much faster than older models and capable of printing a greater variety of materials, meaning multiple industries are now starting to use them for more than just rapid prototyping. 

Between 2017 and 2018 plastic’s share of 3D printing fell from 88 per cent to 65 per cent, while metal printing rose from 28 per cent to 36 per cent. At this rate, metal is likely to overtake plastics as the primary 3D printing material as soon as 2020 or 2021.

Even so, 3D printing is not quite yet ready to replace many traditional manufacturing techniques due to its relative expense, with the technology’s growth in the near-term still likely to be confined to low-volume manufacturing.

Paul Lee, Global Head of Research for Technology, Media and Telecoms at Deloitte, said:

“In 2019, 3D printing will finally start to make its mark. 3D printers today are capable of printing a greater variety of materials, which mainly means more metal printing and less plastic printing. Plastic is fine for prototypes and certain final parts, but the trillion-dollar metal-parts fabrication market is the more important market for 3D printers to address.

“Bionic prosthetic limbs for children for instance, which are usually costly, particularly due to the need to replace these frequently as children grow, have been revolutionised by the introduction of 3D printing and can now be produced for a mere £20.”

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