Charlottesville VA: September 7th, 2016 will no doubt go down in additive manufacturing history as one of the pivotal dates in the industry’s development, marked as the date that GE announced its intent to acquire two of the market’s fastest growing, publicly traded, metal additive manufacturing technology developers. Just as we can look back and point to other pivotal moments -3D Systems’ acquisition of Zcorp or Phenix Systems, Stratasys’ acquisition of MakerBot, or Hewlett Packard’s commercial launch of the long awaited Multi Jet Fusion system – there is no doubt that additive manufacturing history was made earlier this week.
GE has already graciously outlined a fairly significant integration strategy and plan for its acquisitions, going into depth regarding this decision and the future goals it holds for both Arcam and SLM Solutions. But what does this massive play mean in terms of the broader industry? SmarTech Publishing presents a list of its top takeaways from the recent announcement, looking through the lens of impact to the rest of the 3DP/AM market and beyond.
1. The acquisition solidifies a future for metal additive manufacturing in the oil & gas and power generation markets. SmarTech Publishing has recently released the only syndicated deep dive market study on additive manufacturing for the oil and gas industry “Additive Manufacturing Opportunities in Oil & Gas Markets 2016: A Ten-Year Forecast”, currently a very niche market opportunity in which GE already plays a leading role. The secret to GE’s early success in bringing additive manufacturing solutions to the oil and gas industry has been through its ability to transfer success and expertise developed using metal AM in aerospace into similar applications for gas turbines. With direct development access to multiple metal AM technologies, now imagine that same synergy, but multiplied by ten. Being able to communicate the value of metal AM to its vast array of oil and gas customers will be significantly easier with direct control over the development of both EBM and SLM technology. As GE creates the market through this synergy, other AM technology developers will likely benefit from the collective increase in awareness of potential applications for AM in general – even in polymers, composites, and ceramics.
2. The rate at which metal powders used in AM systems transition from casting alloys to technology-specific alloys will increase. GE has brought two hugely successful metal AM development platforms in house, of which it has been successfully applying in an end-user role for the better part of a decade. But it also has now direct control over the powder supply chain through AP&C, a leading supplier of titanium and select other alloys for use in both electron and laser based metal AM systems. Most industries adopting metal AM are (at least primarily) interested in utilizing the same alloys which they have been using in other manufacturing processes, mainly casting alloys. However, the long term potential of additive manufacturing includes the ability to tailor new alloys specifically to an application and additive fabrication process. This is already being explored in the aerospace sector to some degree, and with a multi-billion global entity at the head of two leading metal AM technology platforms, materials development, and application development in key industries, we think that this will speed the rate at which new, more valuable material/process combinations are commercialized.
3. The market for laser based metal powder bed fusion systems potentially becomes significantly more competitive in the short to medium term. Given the relatively small hardware market for metal AM systems today (as compared to other manufacturing technologies), there are quite a wealth of providers of hardware in the laser metal powder bed fusion segment. Despite this array of competitive options, each with their own slight variations on the base process developed for competitive advantage, nearly every participant has seen significant growth in the past three to four years. Indeed, the industry has benefitted collectively as various providers succeed, and thus far few, if any, have faltered significantly as the result of too much competition and not enough product differentiation. This market characteristic is unique to the standalone, laser based metal powder bed fusion system market, where the contrasting value of electron beam melting is well established and served by only one provider. However, with GE controlling a fairly respectable portion of the print volume for metal powder bed fusion in select industries, over time SmarTech Publishing expects that SLM Solutions systems will see compounding benefit and thus have the potential to become significantly differentiated in the market as a result of large scale deployments and the solving of manufacturing issues within the scope of GE’s own printing operations. With improvements made to SLM hardware, there is no guarantee that similar improvements will be made to the same effectiveness in other vendors’ systems given that GE will no doubt have incentive to switch production to SLM systems over time for further cost savings.
SmarTech Publishing has published two recent reports on 3D Printing of Metals:
- Additive Manufacturing with Metal Powders 2016: An Opportunity Analysis and Ten-Year Forecast This report is an extensive study that identifies the rising opportunities in metals AM and includes granular forecasts by application and metal type, as well as strategic profiles of leading players.
- The Production Manager’s Complete Guide to: 3D Printing with Metals This is a practical guide for the production manager who wants to get up to speed on the state of the art in metals-based additive manufacturing and where it is headed in the future. Discusses the details of implementation, challenges and what metals are available for printing
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SmarTech Publishing has published reports on most of the important revenue opportunities in the 3D printing sector including personal printers, low-volume manufacturing, 3D printing materials, medical/dental applications, aerospace and other promising 3D market segments. Our client roster includes some of the largest 3D printer firms, materials firms and investors in the world.
Since 2014, SmarTech Publishing has published dedicated, in-depth market studies focused on additive manufacturing opportunities in the metals sector.