Global 3D Printing Materials Market: Environmentally Sustainable Plastics to Gain Preference over Oil-based Plastics as 3D Printing Materials

With growing demand for 3D printing technology, the market for 3D printing materials is on the rise. With the help of materials such as plastics, ceramics, metals, laywood, and wax, digital designs are converted into tangible objects in 3D printing. The global market for 3D printing is projected to expand at a CAGR of 18.0% during the period between 2014 and 2020. The overall market was worth US$0.4 bn in 2013 and is estimated to reach a valuation of US$1.4 bn by 2020. In terms of volume, the global 3D printing materials market stood at 2 bn kg.

Plant-Based Plastics: A Popular Choice as 3D Printing Material

Manufacturers of 3D printers are focussing on the development of new 3D printing materials that would provide high-strength 3D models with improved surface finish. Among the extensively used 3D printing materials, plastics account for the largest share in the global 3D printing materials market and held a 48% market share in terms of volume in 2013. Increasing demand for electronics and consumer products is expected to further fuel the demand for plastics as 3D printing materials.

Lately, plant-based plastics have emerged as a popular choice for 3D printing, as they are easier to work with during processing and are environmentally sustainable. Oil-based printing filaments are still widely used owing to the higher softening point exhibited by them, which leads to more flexible 3D models that will bend before breaking. However, plant-based plastics are gaining preference over oil-based printing filaments. Biome Bioplastics, in partnership with 3Dom Filaments, has developed Biome3D, a biodegradable thermoplastic made from plant starches that combines superior print finish and easy processing while offering higher print speeds. High-performance plant-based plastics as 3D printing materials would offer potential environmental benefits along with improved efficiency and customizability.

Future Developments in Biomaterials for 3D Printing

For sustainable 3D printing, researchers are working on integrating various desired properties into existing bioplastics. ‘Smart’ biobased plastics display one or more properties that can be altered by external stimuli such as temperature, pressure, light, and magnetic and electric fields. For example, some of the 3D printing polymers change shape or colour with an increase or decrease in temperature, while some are self-healing. These smart features in 3D printing materials will give rise to a whole range of new products and applications.

Some of the future biomaterials for 3D printing are thermo chrome PLA, Nylon 11, Flex PLA or Soft PLA, Bio Rubber, straw and bamboo-based biomaterials, and laybrick. Thermo chrome PLA filament changes colour in response to temperature alterations. While Flex PLA or Soft PLA and Nylon 11 are remarkably flexible, straw-based and bamboo-based 3D printing filaments are of low cost. These diverse sets of properties will help the 3D printing materials market gain customers in a wide-ranging set of applications.


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