First quarter 2020 market data continues to become available from the world’s leading additive manufacturing companies, shedding more light on how the economic fallout from the global pandemic is impacting the AM industry. Although interest in additive manufacturing has surged as a result of the supply chain interruptions, and some companies believe big opportunities are out there, most agree with SmarTech that it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the remainder of the year for metal additive companies.
Throughout 2019, the industry was already struggling as the pool of customers ready to scale up metal AM operations proved too small to support the relatively large number of suppliers who were lured in the market over the last few years hoping the impending boom in AM that never came. This combined with the current economic woes creating a round of industry consolidation. In 2016, GE shook up the industry by acquiring Concept Laser and Arcam out of identifying long term opportunities for metal AM. This may have been the start of something big.
Supply Chain Interruptions put Polymer 3D Printing Technologies Back on the Map, but What About Metals?
During the early stages of the pandemic in the United States, a number of primarily polymer 3D printing solutions were able to be put to use to provide a stopgap for production of a variety of critical parts. Metal technologies also were leveraged, but the applications for metals were longer term projects, such as development of advanced respirator filters, medical facility components made in antimicrobial metals, and other parts. As a result, the COVID crisis has done quite a bit to put polymer 3D printing technologies back into the media spotlight and demonstrate their use as a production tool under various circumstances. But where do metals find themselves in a post-COVID market?
The chart above highlights the “best case” scenario for Q1 2020 metal additive manufacturing market opportunities for hardware and materials based on the most current data SmarTech had at the time of writing this article.
- Compared to 2019, metal AM hardware revenues declined 14 percent. However, by the time final data is collected for the quarter, it is likely that declines of 20 percent will be seen market-wide for metals.
- Meanwhile, metal powder sales were not as heavily affected during Q1 but are much more likely to be impacted during Q2.
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