Due to the nature of the patent process, applications are often filed months or even years before any products actually appear on the market. Therefore, patent filing information can provide clues as to the direction future technologies may be taking.
This is why a recent report published by the European Patent Office (EPO) which shows that patent filings in additive manufacturing (otherwise known as 3D printing) grew almost eight times faster than the average of all other technologies in the last decade, should be seen as a clear indication of the rapid pace of innovation in the 3D printing industry. The report also found that, in contrast to earlier years, the 3D printing market is becoming more diverse, with universities, public research organisations (PROs) and small start-ups now responsible for an ever-growing proportion of filings. Furthermore, estimates from Wohlers Associates indicate that the wider additive manufacturing market's revenue tripled in 2022 to over 18 billion USD.
As a result of this innovation, 3D printing can be expected to have a significant impact on a wide range of industries in the coming years and provide, in particular, a broad range of environmental benefits. For example, manufacturing waste can be reduced by producing only the amount of material that is needed for a particular product and by enabling products, and even whole buildings, to be manufactured locally. 3D printing also reduces transport emissions and the dependence on international supply chains.
Overall, 3D printing has the potential to play a significant role in helping us to solve increasingly complex problems, including the fight against climate change. As additive manufacturing tools and techniques continue to develop and become more widespread, we can expect to see even more innovative and sustainable applications for this technology.
Additive manufacturing removes traditional technical restrictions to the industrial production process, reduces waste and paves the way for mass customisation. No longer a niche technology, it is transforming manufacturing in ever more industries.