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Conventional three dimensional printing and manufacturing has garnered significant traction in all major industrial applications. However, increasing requirement for precision and for processes that require precision at meso, micro, and nanometer scales has led to the development of microscale 3-D printing technology. This technology finds application primarily in manufacturing and fabrication industries as well as in research and scientific community.

Microscale 3-D printing technology can be utilized for the processing of metals, alloys, glass, photosensitive resins, and others, including different forms of plastics

Over the last few years, the use of microscale 3-D printing technology was limited to the making of complex shapes with the use of thermoplastics. Manufacturers are increasingly making efforts for the utilization of these techniques for varied materials that include semiconductors, living cells, and mixing and matching inks with increased accuracy. For instance, in May 2013, Princeton University scientists created bionic ear utilizing electronic and biological materials that could track radio frequencies. In another instance, in January 2014, scientists at Cambridge successfully completed the printing of eye cells that could be helpful in potential treatment for sight loss.

Microscale 3-D Printing Market Taxonomy:

On the basis of printing technologies, the global microscale 3-D printing market is classified into:

  • Stereo-lithography(SLA)
  • Digital Light Processing(DLP)
  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)
  • Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • Selective Laser Melting (SLM)
  • Electronic Beam Melting (EBM)
  • Laminated Object Manufacturing (LOM)

On the basis of end-use industry, the global microscale 3-D printing market is classified into:

  • Aerospace & defense
  • Healthcare
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Automotive
  • Education & Research
  • Others (printed electronics, jewelry, painting, food and culinary)

Technology expected to garner significant applications, however, is still in its nascent stage of development

Owing to extensive application capability, the technology is expected to disrupt almost all material manufacturing application segments, however, is limited mostly to prototyping owing to significant challenges in handling expertise. Moreover, this technology is majorly deployed by science and research institutes that include ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Stanford, MIT, Cambridge; and National University, Singapore. It is estimated that microscale 3-D printing market will garner high adoption, however, will require at least over a decade to become mainstream. According to Coherent Market Insights Analysis, technology adoption should be at least 20% in order to become mainstream.

Slow speeds in relation to the conventional methods of manufacturing and high initial capital are expected to hamper the overall industry growth

For instance, conventional injection molding can be used to produce thousands of objects within an hour. However, the additive manufacturing technology utilizes layer by layer integration of materials, which limits its application for mass production. Additionally, the initial cost of the technology for high precision applications, lack of skilled workforce, and additional expenses on training and expertise will hinder the adoption rate of the technology.

Participants are increasingly making efforts to reduce manufacturing time and increase its application. For instance, Autodesk, a software company has integrated artificial intelligence to create complex design possibilities based on exact weight and strength, most of which can only be created using additive manufacturing.

The U.S., followed by Europe, is expected to be a major region that will witness high adoption rate of the technology, primarily owing to the significant efforts and high inclination of the industry participants toward it. Moreover, advanced manufacturing facilities that include automotive, aerospace, and other industrial applications that are expected to witness significant adoption rate are also present in these regions.

Some of the key players in the microscale 3-D printing market include Desktop Metal, Formlabs, HP, HUBS, WASP, GE Additive, Aleph Objects (Lulzbot), Apis Cor, 3D-Fuel (3DomFuel), Doob Group, E3D, Nano Dimension, Open Bionics, Zortrax, Nanoscribe GmbH, Monoprice, Stratasys, 3D Systems, Divergent3D, and Optomec. Innovation and advanced product development are expected to be the prominent strategic plans of the players to gain strong foothold in the industry. For instance, in 2019, Nanoscribe GmbH launched Quantum X industrial system based on Two-Photon Grayscale Lithography (2GL) extending its product portfolio of high-resolution additive manufacturing systems with a new system for 2D and 2.5D microfabrication.

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