Europe and US head-to-head in 3D printing innovation surge

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3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has seen exponential growth over the past decade, analysis by the European Patent Office (EPO) reveals.

In its latest study, the EPO found that international patent families (IPFs) in 3D printing tech increased at an average rate of 26.3% each year between 2013 and 2020. Notably, this growth rate is nearly eight times faster than the average of all other technology sectors combined (3.3%).

According to the findings, Europe and the US are leading the global race for 3D printing innovation, accounting for almost three-quarters of all IFPs filed between 2001 and 2020. Specifically, the US comes in first place with a 39.8% share and Europe comes in second at a slightly lower 32.9%. Then follows Japan (13.9%), China (3.7%), and South Korea (3.1%).

Within Europe, Germany has emerged as the “clear leader” making up 41% of the region’s total. It’s followed by France at 12% and the UK at 11.5%. Switzerland and the Netherlands come in fourth and first place, respectively.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Fraunhofer Gesellschaft is the first among the top 10 research institutions, with 221 IPFs. The top 10 also includes France’s CNRS and CEA and Dutch TNO.

“Europe secured four of the top ten spots for research institutions in additive manufacturing innovation. This bodes well for the future since technical progress in this field often stems from the cutting-edge research in these institutions,” said EPO President António Campinos.

The report also notes that the global 3D printing market is becoming more and more diverse — not only incorporating an increasing number of startups alongside established engineering companies, but spanning across more sectors as well.

While since 2010 the health, transportation, and medical sectors have attracted most of the 3D printing applications, the technology’s growth is expanding across more industries, including electronics, fashion, construction, and food.

3D printing’s potential is also backed by market projections. At an estimated CAGR of 22.66%, the market is expected to grow from $20.2bn (€18.8bn) in 2023 to $56.2bn (€52.5bn) in 2028.


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