3DPrintingIndustry.com unveiled the results of its 2023 3D Printing Industry Executive Survey on Jan. 25, with over 80 experts providing responses.
The annual survey collects feedback from dozens of additive manufacturing experts across the globe, providing insight into what industry leaders are predicting will be the top trends this year. (The full results of the survey can be read here.)
Here are what experts predict will be the focus of additive manufacturing in 2023:
Advancements in the medical field
According to Growth+ Market Reports, the 3D bioprinting market size was valued at $1.65 billion in 2021, and is expected to increase to $6.08 billion by 2030.
Advancements in medical 3D bioprinting in recent years have shown proven success in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Medical professionals are turning to additive manufacturing to enhance their practices and provide customized and more efficient care for patients.
Jeff Graves, CEO of South Carolina-based 3D printing company 3D Systems told 3DPrintingIndustry.com that he anticipates more hospitals will be integrating additive manufacturing into their medical practices, in areas such as orthopedics, dental and surgeries.
“[Additive manufacturing] at the point of care has the potential to tighten supply chains, in turn allowing hospitals to accelerate time to part in hand, which ultimately will help them more efficiently deliver patient care,” Graves said.
Graves told the publication that he predicts there will be “significant progress made using bio-printed human tissue models to accelerate drug discovery and development,” which could potentially bring new drugs to markets quicker and even eliminate animal testing.
And his predictions could be correct. Researchers at Penn State University have successfully bioprinted – and treated – breast cancer tumors, and most recently, NIH scientists announced they 3D bioprinted eye tissues from patient stem cells, using a method that could provide “a theoretically unlimited supply of patient-derived tissue to study degenerative retinal diseases,” per an NIH press release.
More acquisitions and mergers of companies
In May 2022, leading desktop 3D printing firms MakerBot and Ultimaker announced plans to merge.
The deal was a pronounced indication of consolidations and mergers among players in the additive space over the last few years. In 2021 alone, there were at least 20 buyouts of additive manufacturing companies, according to 3DPrint.com – and that number is expected to increase in 2023, according to experts.
“The future of the 3D-printing industry in 2023 is consolidation: We’re going to see mergers as the companies with the largest range of industrial products and services rise to the top,” Cora Leibig, CEO and founder of Chromatic 3D Metals told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “Production beyond prototypes is not just a nice-to-have — it will become necessary for survival.”
This uptick in mergers and acquisitions was to be expected, experts say, as the 3D printing industry has become saturated with homogeneous manufacturers, driving larger companies to adopt their smaller competitors.
“[One] of the challenges is that you have literally 100’s of small technology companies developing capability…” John Kawola, CEO of Boston Micro Fabrication, told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “While collectively, all of this development is moving the ball forward across many applications, there is an inherent inefficiency in many companies chasing similar applications. With the economic headwinds expected, will there be enough business for multiple players in each market niche?”
More large-scale manufacturing
In Nov. 2022, Austin-based 3D construction company ICON announced its 100-home development project in Georgetown, TX. Just two months prior, German 3D construction company PERI unveiled the first-ever printed two-story house in the U.S. in Houston. And in Phoenix, Diamond Age 3D has already begun selling its first batch of printed single-family homes.
Large-scale manufacturing took center stage in 2022 – particularly within the construction industry – and that momentum is expected to continue well into 2023.
Simon Duchaine, chief commercial officer for Dyze Design, told 3DPrintingIndustry.com that we can expect to see more applications of large-scale 3D printing in the robotics industry.
But with large-scale printing comes a large cost – a challenge, experts said, that needs to be bridled before increased scale can become more achievable.
“A big challenge lies on the cost side,” Nikolai Zaepernick, chief business officer and managing director of EOS, told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “Making the most of additive manufacturing for large-scale production and the sustainability possibilities requires to be mindful of bottom-line concerns. The challenge is to reduce cost-per-part along the entire value chain whilst keeping quality promises.”
More development and utilization of sustainable materials
According to Sculpteo’s “The State of 3D Printing” 2022 report, 59% of additive manufacturers surveyed said they want more development of sustainable materials.
Additive manufacturing typically relies on the use of synthetic polymers, such as Polyvinyl Alcohol plastic (PVA) and Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Bioplastic substitutes, like Polylactic acid (PLA), have been favored as comparable, eco-friendly substitutes for traditional plastic and synthetic polymers.
However, research has shown that most bioplastic filaments, like PLA, can take hundreds of years to decompose and are often mixed with other synthetic filaments, making them no longer biodegradable or even recyclable.
Experts say the emphasis on developments of bio-sourced materials could – and should – be imminent in 2023.
“At 6K Additive, we continue to see a huge emphasis on sustainability… While customers are embracing the benefits of sustainability for materials, there is an added focus on quality. AM users are also doing their due diligence to ensure that quality is not sacrificed,” Frank Roberts, president of 6K Additive, told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “In 2023 we will see customers qualifying sustainable materials for critical applications with the quality tests and data to guarantee there is no sacrifice in quality.”
Maintaining quality of prints while using sustainable materials has been a point of contention among manufacturers. Researchers have learned that biodegradable polymers can be fragile, have poor longevity and diminished mechanical endurance.
Steven Camilleri, CTO and co-founder of SPEE3D, told 3DPrintingIndustry.com that while sustainability “is one of the greatest challenges facing manufacturing – of the many materials humanity [works] with, metal stands out due its infinite recyclability.”
Metal printing, despite its long-standing history in the additive space, had a Kairotic moment in 2022.
More companies were looking to extend their reach into the additive space through metal printing, most notably through Nikon’s $622 million all-cash deal to acquire German 3D printing company SLM in Sept. 2022 and carbon fiber 3D company Markforged acquiring Digital Metal for $40 million in July 2022.
Integration with Artificial Intelligence
The convergence of additive manufacturing and artificial intelligence was anticipated by industry leaders for years. Current integrations of AI and 3D printing are helping manufacturers predict defects in the printing process and improve manufacturing efficiency in R&D stages.
But experts predict AI could become an even greater cornerstone of additive manufacturing in 2023.
“The greatest engineering challenge of the coming decade is also the biggest looming opportunity; how to harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) software to reshape the world of manufacturing,” Ted CEO and co-founder of Mantle told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “Increasingly, manufacturing equipment is able to gather critical process data, but how to most effectively leverage AI to analyze this data and proactively change manufacturing processes in a way that increases efficiency and productivity, while also reducing costs has yet to be determined.”
AI’s potential abilities to reduce costs and errors in the printing process could transfigure the entire industry. Failed prints are difficult for manufacturers to predict, and the risk can fluctuate wildly depending on project size.
Vadim Fomichev, sales director for Thor3D, said the interest for defect detection using AI in 2023 is expected largely from heavy industry manufacturers, whose projects can prove to be the most costly to repair, if needed.
“If the printing goes wrong, the whole model has to be discarded. That’s tolerable for a hobbyist, but becomes a black hole of spending on a large scale,” Fomichev told 3DPrintingIndustry.com. “The upcoming year might be rather fruitful in terms of developments aimed at reducing printing errors. There will be a lot of effort from market players to make 3D printing less wasteful.”
Want to learn more about how 3D printing is revolutionizing the medical field? Read here.
Want to know which 10 major brands are pioneering 3D printing tech? Read here.
Want to know why every CEO should be thinking about 3D printing? Read here.