BOSTON—Ceramic 3D printing, an emerging segment within the 3D printing industry, is a relative newcomer in comparison to polymer and metal 3D printing. But the increasing number of entrants into the field in the past few years—from major ceramics companies to small 3D printing start-ups—points to growing interest in ceramic additive manufacturing, according to a release from the market research and intelligence firm IDTechEx.

In its new report, “3D Printing Ceramics 2022-2032: Technology and Market Outlook,” IDTechEx forecasts the ceramic 3D printing industry to grow seven-fold to $400 million by 2032. As it turns out, ceramics part manufacturers are turning to 3D printing for reasons similar to why polymer part manufacturers use polymer 3D printing, the company said in the release.

Ceramic shaping techniques, such as hot isostatic pressing, extrusion, and injection molding, are long established in the ceramics industry. However, high initial costs to make tooling, as well as long lead times, are among the challenges involved with using these techniques for prototyping and small-to-medium-volume part production. Ceramic 3D printing, much like polymer 3D printing, fills this niche perfectly by substantially decreasing the initial costs of production, according to the release.

Although ceramics 3D printing is a fledgling technology, some notable 3D printing and ceramics industry players are working to gain market share within the industry. From the additive manufacturing market, they include metal 3D printing companies like Voxeljet and ExOne, which have made their machines compatible with ceramics. They also include HP, which has filed for patents involving ceramics for its Multi-Jet Fusion technology.

From the ceramics industry, ceramic materials suppliers like SGL Carbon and Schunk Carbon Technology are offering 3D printed high-performance ceramic part production, while others like Morgan Advanced Materials and Johnson-Matthey are actively conducting research and development to see how ceramic additive manufacturing can optimize their products. Lastly, several companies dedicated to ceramic 3D printing, like Lithoz and 3D Ceram, are among the key leaders within the market, having developed their own proprietary ceramic printing technologies, according to the release.

 Where is ceramic 3D printing gaining market traction? Although the process has been used primarily for research and development and prototypes, it is generating increasing interest from sectors looking for ceramic tooling and small-batch parts. This includes high-value sectors, such as investment casting for aerospace and defense, chemical engineering, and dentistry, IDTechEx said in the release.

There is still room for growth in R&D-related sales. A large number of international research institutes are currently working on progressing ceramic 3D printing in interesting applications like energy storage, medical devices, and carbon capture, the company said.

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