Additive Manufacturing: Strong growth expected in AM industry

Wohlers Associates, which was acquired by ASTM International last year, in its annual report on the additive manufacturing (AM) industry, pictured significant growth and maturing in the AM sector as compared to last year, against the back of recovery from the pandemic. The report also details the increased consumption of polymer powders, overtaking photopolymers for the first time. This marks the 27th consecutive year of publishing the annual report.

Latest trends to note

Even against the back of the pandemic, last year proved to be a stellar year for AM, with a growth of 19.5% in 2021. This is a significant increase from the 2020 growth of a 7.5% increase due to the impact of the pandemic, though it still has not quite yet reached pre-Covid levels, the ten-year average before 2020 was 27.4% growth.

According to Terry Wohlers, Head of Advisory Services and Market Intelligence at Wohlers Associates, “As expected, the industry has returned to a period of advancement and investment. This expansion cuts across aerospace, healthcare, automotive, consumer products, energy, and other sectors.”

The year 2021 also witnessed a number of mergers and other signs of a healthy market, with 75 mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings. This is almost double what was found in last year’s report as Wohlers Report 2021 commented on 74 early-stage investments and 35 acquisitions and public offerings. Though not related directly to growth, it does suggest the maturing and success of the companies, an indirect sign of a flourishing industry.

Growth of polymer powder (yellow) compared to photopolymers (orange) in millions of dollars

The report also notes that more and more companies are using AM for custom products and series production, which could be identified as more industrial applications for the technology. A sign of this is that polymer powders have officially overtaken photopolymers this year. Polymer powder consumption grew 43.4% in 2021, a significant amount, to be sold in greater quantities than photopolymers for the first time.

Evonik/Asiga collaborate on photopolymer-based 3D

An example of increased photopolymer usage comes from a collaboration between German specialty chemicals company Evonik and Australia’s 3D printer manufacturer Asiga. Both companies aim to drive forward 3D printing large-scale industrial manufacturing by extending today’s capabilities of photo-curing technologies. Evonik is contributing its expertise in development and manufacturing of ready-to-use photopolymer materials. Asiga, in turn, is bringing its strength in DLP 3D printers with their open material architecture to the joint effort.

“The cooperation with Asiga, once again, confirms the growth approach we are focusing on with our new product line of Infinam photopolymer resins launched last year. We are sending an important signal to our customers who will now benefit from an even broader access to our high-performance materials with excellent processability properties on Asiga’s DLP 3D printers to explore new infinite applications,” said Rainer Hahn, Head of Evonik’s photopolymer market segment within the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Growth Field.

Evonik’s new Infinam photopolymers are ready-to-use high-performance formulations that can be processed seamlessly on Asiga’s DLP 3D printers.

Asiga is an innovation driver in desktop stereolithography, launching the world’s first LED based DLP 3D printer in 2011. Today, the company continues to focus on a range of process monitoring technologies which control part accuracy and production stability across many industries including medical and general manufacturing. Asiga’s product line covers a broad range from powerful desktop 3D printers including their MAX series to large format floor standing such as the PRO 4K.

“As we continue to strengthen our open material architecture we are delighted to provide our customers access to Evonik’s new range of Infinam photopolymers. Combining the latest material developments in additive polymer science from Evonik with our industrial grade 3D printing hardware creates robust additive manufacturing solutions with endless possibilities,” Graham Turner, Global Operations Manager, Asiga.

New product line of photopolymers

Last year, Evonik introduced first ready-to-use formulations of its new photopolymers product line for industrial 3D printing applications. Infinam TI 3100 L leads to high toughness and impact-resistant 3D parts which can withstand strong impact or permanent mechanical effects such as pressing or impact.

ST 6100 L is setting-up a new benchmark in the category of high strength polymer resins. It combines tensile strength of 89 MPa, flexural strength of 145 MPa and HDT of 120°C, and thus fills the material gap in ultra-high strength photopolymers.

Meanwhile, RG 3101 L combines impact resistance with high-temperature resistance while exhibiting long-lasting thermomechanical performance.


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