Lower entry costs add to appeal of additive manufacturing


The global market for additive manufacturing products and services jumped by 26.4% in 2010, with the growth spurt not only attributed to economic recovery, but also better equipment affordability. Gone apparently are the days where multi-million dollar investment was required to secure a rapid prototyping capability.

While high-end machines may still range in price up to $500,000, "standard" equipment can typically be procured for anywhere between $30,000 and $150,000, while entry level $4,000 3D printing units are also now available. For those with an engineering inclination, there are even open source solutions freely available that can be constructed for around $1,000, according to Lukasz Pienkowski of service provider 4T Technologies (Singapore). Another growth driver is a wider selection of system suppliers, numbering at least 25 including 11-plus 3D printer manufacturers.

Returning to market growth, Pienkowski noted that there were 2472 additive manufacturing units operating in China in 2009 and he estimates one-third more would have been added during 2010. He also sees additive manufacturing of plastic components for aerospace applications as a fast growth area. Eric Lee, general manager of technology at distributor DKSH Technology (Singapore), concurs. "Aerospace manufacturing is definitely a strong area in Singapore, he notes. DKSH sells fused deposition modeling (FDM) systems from Fortus 3D Production Systems (Eden Prairie, MN) in Singapore, and it currently has 40 on the ground. These systems form components from resins such as ABS, PC and polyetherimide (PEI)....
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