Even though the patent for stereolithography was awarded in 1986, in the middle of almost two decades of innovations in printing technologies, we are still discussing the potential of additive manufacturing today. One of the major obstacles holding this technology back is in the way it needs to be operated. Unlike in consumer printers, the layperson operating a 3D printer needs to understand what and how to configure the software to print the first models of an item. Then they have to identify which materials to use and how to set up the printer. Such constraints have kept 3D Printing away from the mass manufacturing of applications.
Not enough products and parts are being produced using a 3D printer today. With collaborations between academia and industry strengthening, especially in new materials and design, we expect a wide range of applications to develop under additive manufacturing.
Top 5 Global Additive Manufacturing Startup Hubs
Using our Innovation Intelligence Platform, we analyzed the geographic distribution of global activity in additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. We identified 25 regional hubs (hub = the regional geographic center of activity for a specific topic; it covers the center point with a radius of 100km (62mi)) that observe high activity in developing additive manufacturing solutions for industry 4.0. According to our data, New York City, London, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Boston are home to 69 startups and account for 18% of global activity and 3% of global startup activity.
According to our data, two-fifths of all activity in additive manufacturing happens in the US and in Europe. Advanced manufacturing facilities combined with hubs for innovations in smart technologies create the ideal conditions for enabling 3D printing to shift to the next level of industrial-scale manufacturing.
Even though the rest of the world sees comparatively lower activity, India, China, and Australia have more examples of 3D printing when compared to other advancements. As 3D printing reaches further into consumer segments, the option for customized and scalable production will become more attractive, making industrial manufacturing using this technology a standard rather than a luxury.
#1 New York City | 89 Solutions
One of the biggest hubs for additive manufacturing to the west of the Atlantic ocean, New York City is home to several academic and commercial research and development institutions. Special focus areas for this hub comprise materials research for 3D printing along with parts manufacturing and testing. The biggest challenge here is fostering greater collaboration between the two institutions to develop cutting-edge solutions. The opportunities are ripe for the picking.
R3 Printing from Long Island, New York, develops the R3 Printer, a scalable on-demand manufacturing printer, and a service platform. With patents pending on multiple innovations within the additive manufacturing process, their printers are suitable for mass and customized production. By working on key pain points, like speed, size, and interruptions while printing, this solution holds promise for the industry’s ambitions.
#2 London | 85 Solutions
London boasts a wealth of technology-ready talent and lots of financing. The UK government has highlighted advanced manufacturing as one of the key priority sectors for the country. Similar to their neighbors across the ocean in New York, a higher degree of collaboration between research and application presents numerous opportunities for employing industrial-scale 3D printing techniques.
London-based startup Geomiq builds its eponymous data-driven manufacturing platform and workflow tool for engineering and production. Within just 3 years, they built a network of over 200 manufacturing partners across 16 countries enabling 3D printed parts and products to be created within 3 days of order. The company uses its data and network platform to identify available printer capacity and deliver fast turnarounds. This also allows them to work on multiple projects.
#3 Silicon Valley | 76 Solutions
While China ramps down on low-skill manufacturing and makes its shift to a consumption-based economy, demand for domestic manufacturing is rising in the United States. This suits Silicon Valley’s goals as the area possesses a skilled workforce willing to invest in advanced high-tech manufacturing. In addition, technologies like 3D printing are ready for expansion, both, in terms of scale and range of applications.
Based in Berkeley, the startup Arris Composites develops continuous carbon fiber composites with the aim of replacing metals. The startup addresses the scalability issue of 3D printing by employing a novel high-speed manufacturing process. Using this proprietary process, Arris continuously 3D-prints carbon fiber parts that outperform 3D-printed metal and composite aerospace parts in terms of structural properties, minimum feature size, and manufacturing cost.
#4 Los Angeles | 63 Solutions
Aside from the large pool of skilled and creative talent available in Los Angeles, the region also represents a fast-growing technology hub for manufacturing and healthcare. Considering the investment and focus on technologies, the Center for Advanced Manufacturing was opened here in 2017.
Expanse 3D is a startup from Los Angeles creating a rapid 3D printing solution, capable of shipping parts in one or two days. Using a high-throughput additive manufacturing process, isotropic polymers, and engineering-grade materials, they are able to print higher volumes and reduce costs for their customers. This solution is compatible with a wide range of 3D model software, allowing for cross-industry applications.
#5 Boston | 62 Solutions
Boston already houses some of the most innovative technologies in robotics, at both research and commercial levels. With high-quality universities providing a constant source of highly-skilled workforce, the region is even able to support other smaller hubs close by in Connecticut and in New Hampshire. Dental applications and metals, in general, represent the key topics of discussion today.
Hailing from Boston, inkbit is a startup developing 3D printers enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine vision. The startup uses a proprietary 3D scanning system to generate a topographical map of each layer after material deposition. Any discrepancy from the expected geometry is corrected in subsequent layers. The system also uses this data to train a machine-learning algorithm that enables the printer to learn the properties of each material and anticipate its behavior. This allows for parts to be built quickly and accurately, every time.
From keychains to rockets launched into space, the world already uses additive manufacturing technologies to create products faster, with sustainable materials, with innovative designs, and without harming the environment. The challenge going forward lies in industrial-scale 3D printing of everything that can be printed out, especially in industry 4.0 smart factories and logistical warehouses. Evolution in design and an increasing number of skilled workers interested in additive manufacturing is set to expand the range of applications.