Bloomberg is reporting today that Swedish capital goods company Sandvik is boosting research spending on 3-D printing as the world’s largest maker of metal-cutting tools expands capabilities in a market set to grow ninefold to $21 billion in a decade. We believe this is a strong signal for Swedish additive manufacturer Arcam (AMAVF), as more and more traditional industrial companies explore 3D-printing. This might very well end up with Arcam being acquired by one of the giants.
Bloomberg reports that Sandvik is hiring staff for a new 3-D printing research and development center in Sandviken, Sweden, Mikael Schuisky, operations manager for additive manufacturing, said in an interview. The team will unify 3-D initiatives across the business and examine how the technology can be used in its production of everything from mining drill rigs to fuel tubes for nuclear power plants.
According to Bloomberg, Sandvik is following manufacturers like Germany’s Siemens AG in exploring 3-D printing, which can create components from scratch by adding thin layers of materials on top each other following instructions from blueprints on a computer. Advantages may include faster production, increased flexibility and being able to create components in shapes impossible to accomplish through standard methods.
“We’re taking this to another level,” Schuisky said to Bloomberg. “We’re making a focused strategic push to research this for the benefit of the entire group.”
By 2025, the value of the 3-D printing market could grow to $21 billion, from $2.3 billion this year, according to market researcher IDTechEx. While 3-D printing won’t be able to replace traditional manufacturing methods soon, it will help to produce components that are made from expensive materials or have a very complex design, Schuisky said.
The process of making objects by adding successive thin layers of materials such as plastic powder, metal or liquid resin on top of each other, is the opposite of the current method of cutting away unwanted mass from a raw material using tools like Sandvik’s.
’’What is attractive about 3-D is the new way of thinking,’’ Schuisky said to Bloomberg. ’’We are used to thinking that objects are processed out of a material. We need to start thinking about starting from a blank canvas.’’
As Nordic Investor has written about before, the aerospace industry is at the forefront of 3-D printing in the manufacturing industry. General Electric (GE) has said that from 2016, its new Leap aircraft engine will include 19 3-D printed fuel nozzles, designed to last five times longer than traditionally made components. Siemens uses additive manufacturing to repair gas turbine burners at its site in Finspang, Sweden. That’s accelerated the repair time from 44 to four weeks, and the process has also hastened the time taken to prototype new metal components to as little as 48 hours.
Still, 3-D printing will remain inferior to traditional methods when it comes to making products in larger volumes, IDTechEx Director Jon Harrop said to Bloomberg.
“You can punch out objects so much faster using those traditional technologies. And I don’t see that changing,” Harrop said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. ’’I only see it really having an effect on small, high-value components.’’
IDTechEX predicts the strongest growth in coming years from the oil and gas industry, where remote and unhospitable locations make it attractive to have 3-D printers produce spare parts on site. There will also be demand for 3-D printing from military forces to produce components on the battlefront.
As manufacturing companies find new uses for additive processes, the market for metal powders for 3-D printing is predicted to grow even faster than the overall 3-D printing market.
Already today, Sandvik makes metal powders for additive manufacturing under the Osprey brand name, in competition with companies such as Sweden’s Höganas, Carpenter Technology Corp. (CRS) and German 3-D printer maker EOS.