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Market Study 3D Printing is One of the Most Important Economic Topics

| Author / Editor: Stefan Guggenberger / Alexander Stark

According to a recent study, two out of ten German companies with more than 100 employees is already using 3D printing and another 23 % are planning to do so. Germany's leading industries, i.e. automotive, mechanical engineering and chemicals, are pioneers in 3D printing.

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The automotive industry is a pioneer in 3D printing in Germany. Already 41 % of the industry uses AM technology.
The automotive industry is a pioneer in 3D printing in Germany. Already 41 % of the industry uses AM technology.
(Source: VCG )

Buzzwords like Blockchain, Cloud Computing, AI and 3D printing are on everyone's lips. This is hardly surprising, because in a globalized economy, Germany as a high-tech location must not miss the opportunities provided by potentially disruptive technologies. A recent study by the market research company Bitkom and the IT consulting firm TCS dealt with these topics and questioned German businesses.

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The representative study concludes that 3D printing is one of the most important topics in the German economy. According to the study 19 % of all German companies with more than 100 employees, has already started to use additive manufacturing. In comparison, only 5 % use blockchain technologies and 11 % use artificial intelligence. Other trend technologies such as big data (44 %) and cloud computing (78 %) are much more widespread in Germany. Since AM is not yet as easy to implement as cloud computing, for instance, due to the relatively high investment costs and the required know-how, there is still some catching up to be done.

Leading Industries Are Also Leading in 3D Printing

It is no secret that German industry is significantly dominated by some industries. Especially the automobile industry is a reliable indicator of the state of the country’s economy. According to the Bitkom study, the automotive industry is also a pioneer in 3D printing, with 41 % (22 % in 2017) of companies already using it. Currently, car manufacturers are using additive technologies mainly for prototype and tool making. Trials of additive series production are conducted more frequently. Above all, the steadily advancing maturity of 3D metal printing has a positive impetus on the suitability for series production of additive processes such as laser sintering and metal binder jetting.

38 % of machine and plant manufacturers are already using 3D printing. In 2017, only 26 % of the companies used this technology. This increase can partly be explained by the possibility of optimizing the functionality of additively manufactured components, such as optimized cooling structures. In addition, it is now possible to produce tool steel and even industrial diamonds by means of additive manufacturing. In general, more and more manufacturers are qualifying their printers and processes for industrial applications. Its technological progress also increases the profitability of AM and thus its acceptance.

In the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, 38 % of companies also make use of additive manufacturing - twice as many as in 2017 (19 %). This technology creates many new possibilities. For instance, drugs could be produced as needed and dosages could be individualized to a high degree.

Methodology: For this survey 953 companies with 100 or more employees in Germany were interviewed. The interviews were conducted with executives who are responsible for digitalization in their company. The survey is representative for the overall German economy with companies of more than 100 employees.

Additive Manufacturing is a Complex Matter

Since we regularly report on new market studies on the subject of 3D printing, we have noticed that these studies have come to different conclusions. Taking only the German market in 2019 into consideration, several studies have come to different conclusions about the utilization of AM. A representative Bitkom study (555 surveyed companies) from June 2019 suggests that 32 % of German industrial companies already use 3D printing technology - the current study (953 surveyed companies) puts this figure at just under 19 %. A sign that the 3D industry is still difficult to grasp and changing rapidly. New processes, new applications, new manufacturers - the industry is currently booming, becoming more diverse and complex. And who defines what it means to use 3D printing? Is the single use for a prototype enough or does AM have to be permanently integrated into the production? In addition, probably not every user knows whether additive technology was used for an externally sourced component or tool.

In order to get an overview of the current application possibilities of AM, we made the reality check. In one of the largest market research studies on the subject in the DACH region, we surveyed industrial users across all sectors on the use of additive manufacturing.

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560 participants from the B2B sector, 80 % of them decision-makers, enable us not only to make qualitative statements, but also to answer the following quantitative questions:

  • Where does additive manufacturing really stand these days?
  • What can additive manufacturing do and where can it already be used to create value?

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  • Original by Stefan Guggenberger / Translation by Alexander Stark

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