Shaping the metal additive manufacturing factories of tomorrow*

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Metal AM service providers represent a key transition step to evolve metal AM from its current status as a niche prototyping technology and small-batch production technology to digital mass production and eventually production. mass production in real metal AM factories.

It is no coincidence that after the biggest 3D software vendors, such as Autodesk, Dassault Systèmes and Ansys, the biggest AM service providers who have introduced production capabilities, such as BEAM-IT, Proto Labs, Materialize or Shapeways are among the AM companies that have attracted the largest investments and the best performances on the stock market in recent years.

Top 10 Metallurgical AM Services

In the recently released Metal AM Market Opportunities and Trends Report, 3dpbm Research conducted a survey to provide an accurate overview of the still young and fragmented Metal AM Services segment.

Out of a total of 142 metal additive manufacturing services studied, the Italian BEAM-IT, which provides services mainly to the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors and houses more than 50 metal PBF 3D printers (combining the total of the two companies), was the largest in the world in 2020. This was before finalizing its acquisition of 3T, which strengthened this position. Metal AM services provided by Chinese metal hardware manufacturer L-PBF Bright Laser Technologies (currently using more than 100 systems to provide metal AM production services) made it the second largest company by revenue. Toolcraft, the largest metal AM service provider in Germany by revenue, has become the third largest metal AM service provider in the world by offering both L-PBF and DED capabilities (among other production technologies ), which allow the German company to manage project costs.

Inside BEAM-IT’s metal AM production facility

Stratasys Direct Manufacturing, which acquired two major AM service providers (Harvest Technologies and Solid Concepts) in 2014, and 3D Systems On Demand Manufacturing close out the top 5 list. This month alone, the 3D Systems On Demand business became a stand-alone business under the previously used Quickparts brand, following its acquisition by investment firm Trilantic North America (see the exclusive interview with the new CEO in this number). Both Stratasys Direct and Quickparts offer metal additive manufacturing capabilities primarily using L-PBF technology. Falcontech, the sixth-largest company by revenue, is a Chinese pure player in metallurgical AM services, relying primarily on L-PBF metal technology from SLM Solutions and Farsoon. Seventh place is taken by Oerlikon, a large metal materials supplier headquartered in Switzerland with significant metal AM operations in Europe (where it acquired metal AM service provider Citim) and the United States. United. The Swiss company is followed by Proto Labs, a leading digital manufacturing outsourcing service provider that also offers metal additive manufacturing services with 35 machines installed. French AM service provider PolyShape, which was acquired by French metal AM hardware makers AddUp, is the largest in France and ninth globally in terms of revenue. The 10th company on this list was UK metal AM service provider 3T. After a difficult year 2020 and the acquisition by BEAM-IT, this place is now occupied by the rising star Morf3D, specialized in metal AM for the aerospace, space and defense sectors. Siemens Materials Solutions, Sauber Engineering, and KAM are other relevant companies in this space with significant growth potential.

Types of Metal AM Service Providers

The metal AM production services segment is still largely made up of small and medium-sized enterprises. Today, the fastest growing metal additive manufacturing service companies are typically additive manufacturing hardware vendors (such as 3D Systems, Stratasys Digital Metal, ExOne) or service and network providers. digital manufacturing outsourcing (such as Proto Labs, Xometry, Materialise, Jabil, Siemens Materials Solutions) who offer metal AM services as part of a full suite of digital manufacturing services that include other AM processes or non-FA processes.

Design and prototyping services

Metal AM first emerged as a rapid prototyping and tooling technology. Today, the majority of metal 3D printing services originate from the pioneers who first introduced metal 3D printers in-house to complement other technologies. These types of companies typically own fewer than three small-format metal AM systems and are gradually expanding their AM capabilities to offer small-batch AM production as well as prototypes and tooling. Often, these companies generate added value through DfAM (design for additive manufacturing) and consulting services, leveraging their extensive experience in producing AM parts.

Metal AM service providers are positioning themselves as a transition step and shaping the metal AM factories of tomorrow

Specialist metallurgical AM service providers for SMEs

Companies that own between 3 and 10 metallic AM systems are classified in the 3dpbm Research report as specialized metallic AM service providers. These are companies capable of offering some level of mass production of AM metal parts in batches of up to a few hundred or a few thousand pieces per year. Typically, these companies offer AM production capabilities with polymer AM or other subtractive and formative production services. The primary added value is expertise across the entire digital workflow, advanced engineering services, NDT capabilities, part inspection and post-processing capabilities.

Large metal additive manufacturing services and metal additive manufacturing factories

The last three-year period has started to see the emergence of large-scale metal additive manufacturing factories. These are offered by companies that operate at least 10 metal AM systems, including large format and high throughput production systems. These companies, of which only about 20 are present in the world today, have developed advanced expertise in outsourcing mass production capabilities, with advanced expertise in complete AM workflows, which include highly automated AM production, from material handling to part finishing. This class of companies has production capacities of several thousand pieces per year and is characterized by high application agnosticism, meeting the demands of customers in the aerospace, automotive, medical, industrial and industrial sectors. tools, industrial parts, energy and consumer products.

Manufacturers of metallic materials offering AM services

Another key trend that has emerged in recent years has seen some of the largest metal AM material manufacturers establish in-house metal AM production plants and facilities. Relevant examples include Carpenter Technologies, GKN Additive, Oerlikon, Heraeus, Hoganas and others. In order to bring some AM production capabilities in-house, Sandvik, a major manufacturer of metallic AM materials, acquired a stake in Beam-IT, which (following the acquisition of its competitor Zare) is now the largest major pure player metal AM service provider in terms of production capacities.

This investment has multiple advantages: on the one hand, it allows metallurgical AM manufacturers to capitalize on their investments in AM-specific atomization production lines by commercializing high value-added AM parts produced with materials internally sourced. In doing so, they also develop unique know-how and expertise in the various metal additive manufacturing processes which are used to refine the development and customization of new metal alloys specific to the additive manufacturing process.

AM equipment providers and AM service networks

From the beginning, some of the biggest metal AM service providers have been hardware manufacturers. In particular, additive manufacturing industry leaders 3D Systems and Stratasys offer metal additive manufacturing production capabilities through their respective Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and 3D Systems on Demand Manufacturing systems.

In China, metal hardware manufacturer Bright Laser Technologies is becoming one of the largest metal additive manufacturing plants in the world, while specialist service provider Falcontech has become a major company in this segment thanks to a partnership key with hardware supplier Farsoon.

Other online digital manufacturing service providers, such as Xometry and Hubs (formerly 3D Hubs and now owned by Proto Labs) have focused specifically on creating online digital manufacturing networks leveraging the power of algorithms to calculate the final cost of an AM metal part based on part weight, complexity and material type.

Metal AM service providers are positioning themselves as a transition step and shaping the metal AM factories of tomorrow

Vertical AM Parts Suppliers

The last category, only marginally included in the analysis of this ebook, is represented by the vertical segment specific AM parts suppliers. These companies are typically Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers to OEMs in large industrial sectors such as aerospace, automotive, energy, industrial parts, or specialty suppliers to the medical and dental sectors. These are companies that have invested in the development of specific know-how in the use of AM technologies for their reference sectors. As such, they can provide metal AM 3D printing services and optionally act as outsourced metal AM factories to their OEM or Tier 1 customer, as well as additively produce parts to sell to their customers. clients.

*This article was originally published in 3dpbm’s AM Services Focus 2021 eBook and is an excerpt from 3dpbm Research Metal AM’s 2020-2030 Opportunities and Trends. To learn more about the production capacities, revenue opportunities, and specific volumes of parts produced and materials consumed by Metal AM service providers in 2020 (forecast to 2030), view the Opportunities and Materials report. AM metal trends from 3dpbm here.