New 3D printing report reveals trends in metal, pricing variability

As part of the analysis, 3Diligent found that while plastics and resins still command the lion’s share of projects, metal printing has nearly doubled its share of 3D printing RFQs.

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Rapid manufacturing services provider 3Diligent (Los Angeles, Calif.) has completed its first state of professional and industrial 3D printing report. The report is based on analysis of customer requests for quote (RFQs) and orders from 2015 to 2016, as well as bids submitted by its supply partners on those projects.

3Diligent developed the report to track 3D printing industry trends. 3Diligent used a random sample of 100 orders and 1,000 bids across 70 suppliers between 2015 and 2016 for the report.

As part of the analysis, 3Diligent found that while plastics and resins still command the lion’s share of projects, metal printing has nearly doubled its share of 3D printing RFQs. In 2015, nearly 76% of requests were for plastic or resin and only 14% for metal (the other 10% didn’t specify a material preference), but in 2016, plastic and resin represented 65% and metal grew to 27% of RFQs. Popular metal requests include stainless steel, titanium and aluminum.

The 3Diligent report also found that ABS and its variants still dominate professional and industrial printing service demand. ABS plastic and resin ABS simulants represented roughly half of orders. Metals represented around a third of orders. Polymers with specialized properties – like biocompatibility or rubberlike properties – and nylon, another all-purpose material, rounded out the difference.

3Diligent also analyzed pricing behavior, calculating the spread between its suppliers’ bids on each of the RFQs in the data set. The analysis found that variability between 3D printing bids is very large, with an average high bid of 2.84 times the lowest bid. For example, a typical low price of $1000 vs. a high price of $2,840.

The high bid was more than double the low bid 59 percent of the time, and more than five times the low bid 17% of the time. Conversely, only 11% of RFQs had spreads of less than 20% between the low and high bid.

The disparity between low and high bids was especially prominent on projects where the requested material needs bordered between plastic and metal (high bid 4.16 times the low). However, on RFQs seeking exclusively metal or plastic, average spreads remained large (2.6 times and 2.7 times, respectively).