3D printing on the rise for defense, aerospace and space industry

3D printing hardware, software, materials and services for defense, aerospace and space companies will be worth US$140 million in 2016, rising to US$600 million in 2022, claims a new study.

The SmarTech report “Additive Manufacturing in Space and Defense Aerospace Markets” explores the entire value chain for 3D printing in the space/defense aerospace markets, providing analysis of the benefits of 3D printing in the manufacture of space vehicles, satellites, military aircraft, missile systems, and UAVs.

The report contains ten-year forecasts including:

  1. revenue forecasts for the space/defense aerospace sector with breakouts by software, services, hardware and materials;
  2. number of parts printed for each application, with breakouts by prototypes, tooling, and final use components, as well as by material type; and
  3. the install base of printers.

According to the report, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) technology is still in the development phase in relation to its use in the space and defense aerospace industry. Most companies in the space are using service providers to print low-volume parts.

This means there is growing demand for 3D printing service providers who have specialist knowledge of space and defense applications.

3D printing service revenues generated from the space/defense aerospace sector will exceed US$325 million by 2022. However, manufacturers will eventually transition to printer ownership. Additionally, security clearance and IP protection will see increasing numbers of 3D printing jobs being brought in-house.

While many types of 3D printing technologies will be used for space and defense aerospace parts, powder bed systems are expected to account for 50 percent of hardware revenues over the next eight years.

Soon both plastic and metal systems will prove to be ideal technologies for replacement parts in aging military aircraft.

By 2022 consumption of 3D print materials by the space and defense aerospace will reach US$120 million.  Polymers will have a growing presence in some areas of space/defense aerospace 3DP. But there will also be a high degree of potential metal component demand for very large structural components associated with space vehicles, satellites, and some military aircraft.