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After 2009 however, changes occurred which have seen the fortunes of the 3D printing world take an abrupt turn for the better. Manufacturers of 3D printers are reporting a surge in demand and markets for 3D printing are growing rapidly across a number of application areas as new materials development open up new opportunities.3D printers in fact constitute a raft of technologies, based on a number of different physical mechanisms, the common feature of which is the generation of a 3-dimensional physical object from a digital model. The process is additive in nature, as materials are laid down only where needed, and thus results in significantly less materials wastage than traditional manufacturing techniques. Each of the technologies is suitable for use with a different range of materials, which in turn defines the suitable applications of the printer.Originally used for the rapid production of prototypes for form and fit testing, applications are transitioning towards also functional testing of prototypes under working conditions, and further, the manufacture of final products.
Whilst 3D printing of final products is relatively slow compared to traditional manufacturing methods, new, more complex, design avenues are opened up enabling the economic production of lighter components, critical to the aerospace and automotive industries. Applications are also emerging in the medical and dental fields, where the opportunity afforded by cheap customisation is allowing surgeons to replicate a patient's body based on MRI and CT scans in order to practice difficult invasive procedures, and medical and dental implants which are fully customised to a particular individual can be generated.This report discusses each of the technologies and on-going technological advances in depth, and analyses both the current and future markets for 3D printing. The market structure is also detailed, and we present profiles of the major players together with insights gained from in-depth interviews with a range of companies involved in 3D printing. We also present detailed forecasts for the future of the 3D printing market.
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