by Benjamin Haller, Head of Innovation, and Benjamin Delignon, Innovation Manager

2020 is moving to an end and we would like to reflect on the main developments in the Additive Manufacturing (AM) market during this year. Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we have seen remarkable advancements and we would like to highlight the main trends.

Consolidation on the market continues 

Throughout the year, we have seen several players in the AM market merge or being acquired – often by other AM companies. Prominent examples are the acquisition of ZARE by BEAMIT, the ongoing expansion of Prototal with their acquisition of 3T’s polymer business or the new joint venture between Thyssenkrupp and Wilhelmsen for Marine spare parts. Besides these transactions that were broadly featured in the media, several smaller acquisitions happened like the acquisition of Swedish supplier Lasertech by XANO AB.

We expect this trend to continue in the following year and believe that it will have a positive impact on the average level of quality in the AM market. 

Several businesses attract new funding

Even though this year has been challenging for most of the AM businesses, many of them managed to close new funding rounds to fuel their expansion. The American supplier of LPBF-systems Velo3D raised a $28m series D to bring their total funding to $138m,  German supplier of polymer post processing equipment Dyemansion closed a $14M series B and the German software-supplier  3YOURMIND raised additional $5.5M. Right before the end of the year, Desktop Metal closed their IPO targeting a valuation of around $2.5B. This valuation is especially remarkable considering that the company has only been founded in 2015.

This trend clearly shows the trust in the AM sector and the high expectations put into innovative ventures from the AM market.

Increasing collaboration and standardization efforts

Even though most industry fairs and conferences have either been postponed or shifted virtually, we have seen a great deal of collaboration and joint development projects throughout the year. One prominent example is the Joint Innovation Project led by DNV GL resulting in guidelines for the production and qualification of AM parts for the Oil & Gas and maritime industries. Another great example is the consortium POLYLINE led by EOS with the goal to develop a digitalized production line for the automotive industry. 

This collaboration will help the AM industry to mature beyond current limits and further move towards automated and qualified production in more and more industries.

Breakthrough for applications in various industries

Various milestones were also reached during this uncertain year, in several industries. The first metal spare part was delivered to an airline as an emergency solution. In the energy sector, the Tokamak nuclear reactors (for next generation nuclear plant) are currently in development and will involve several parts in additive manufacturing. Critical for the Ariane 6  heavy rocket, the Vulcain 2.1 engine was tested this year – another example of how AM can be used for critical applications in Space. 

In every industry, technical breakthroughs are proving that AM technologies deserve a place as a reliable production method for highly critical components.

AM as a tool to react on challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic

The AM industry was highly mobilised at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, directly supporting the medical sector, but also more indirectly affecting various industries. In order to answer to the high need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and spare parts for medical systems, initiatives in every country in Europe and USA were launched to produce critical components. Such as setting up 60 printers in a Paris hospital, the development of Copper-filament  in Chile or Copper coated applications in Australia and millions of face-masks produced in UK. If you want to have a deeper look, this article from summarizes different applications and describes the overall movement.

The University Hospital Trust in Paris acquired 60 FDM 3D printers from Stratasys in late March to create an in-house rapid-response supply chain.

Outside of the medical sector, AM has also played a promintent role. For example, it has been common in various industries to use AM for limiting the impact of broken supplychain or to avoid shortages by producing small batches. This clearly shows how AM technologies can increase the resilience of long-distance supplychains for all industries.

It is great to see how fast the AM industry reacted and sticked together during these times. We are certain that the role technology has played during the last few months will help further promote the AM beyond previous limits.