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3D printing market to reach a value of $4.5 billion by 2018

Press Release   •   Jun 10, 2013 15:56 BST

The 3D printing market has been forecast to hit an industry value of US$4.5 billion by 2018, driven by the development of innovative printing techniques, expanding application areas and the declining cost of systems and consumables.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.

3D printing is considered distinct from traditional machining techniques, which mostly rely on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling.

Creating prototypes of new products represents the major commercial application of 3D printing, while direct digital manufacturing using the technique is limited to short production runs in few industry verticals.

Companies are continuing to reap the benefits of 3D printing, a decades-old technology that has increased in popularity over the past few years as the prices of printing machines and materials have come down.

Ford uses the technology to print cylinder heads, brake rotors and rear axels for test vehicles. Thanks to 3D printing, production time for one type of cylinder head, used in its fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines, is cut down from four to five months to three, shaving 25% to 40% off production time.

Earlier casting methods required that the mold be cut from sand; 3D printing allows Ford to skip the cutting process and pour the metal directly into the molds. GE, meanwhile, says that 3D printing is helping the company cut production costs of certain parts, including an ultrasound probe, by up to 30%.

While developed regions such as the US and Europe have been at the forefront for developing and adopting 3D printing technologies, the volatile economic environment in the past few years has turned the focus onto emerging markets including China and India.

For more information on the 3D printing market, see the latest research: 3D Printing Market

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