Compare your options for 3D printers available today and you’ll find that most of them use string-style filaments. It’s pretty much the way things have been for the better part of 3D printing’s history as a technology.
Things are changing, though. Strings and spools are beginning to fall away in favor of a new filament style – powder.
In fact, experts predict that by 2020, powders will make up almost $700 million of the 3D printing industry.
The Rise of Powders
What makes powders so popular? Why would someone choose a powdered 3D printing filament rather than a more conventional option?
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here.
The prediction was made in a new report put together by MarketsandMarkets, an independent market research firm (which means they ostensibly have no ties to manufacturers on either side of the divide). The report was titled 3D Printing Powder Market by Type (Metal, Plastic, Ceramic), by Application (Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Medical & Dental, Others) by Geography (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, ROW) – Global Forecast to 2020.
Yep, that’s a real mouthful.
What it found is that powdered filament types are growing by leaps and bounds in terms of type, availability, lowered cost and accessibility. This segment is expected to see 24.4% growth over the next five years (2015 through 2020).
While the report indicated a very wide range of reasons behind the growth, it pointed out that growth wasn’t evenly distributed across all industry sectors.
North America sees far more use of powders than any other area of the world, with the Asia-Pacific sector coming in second and then Europe. It was also far more likely to be used at the C level in business, and in Tier 1 companies rather than Tier 2 or Tier 3 companies.
Those companies are just as diverse as you might think, too.
By far and away the largest consumer of powders is the defense and aerospace sector, which was responsible for almost a third of all powders used globally. This was followed by the automotive sector, the dental and medical sector, and more.
The range of powder types is also diverse. Metal 3D printing powders lead the pack, particularly for fabrication companies and engineering applications.
As you might think, defense and aerospace companies are the largest users, but automakers have their toe in the door here as well. With that being said, many other powder types are in use throughout all industries, with the medical sector using both metals and plastics, and the dental industry using plastics more than metals.