USA Is Leading the Charge in Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Published on September 19, 2023 by Michael M.
3D Printing patents

The European Patent Office (EPO) has just published a new report on the 3D printing market, showing among other things, that the number of patent applications in the international market grew at an average annual rate of 26.3% between 2013 and 2020. This is eight times faster than other technological fields, showing proof that the market is very dynamic in terms of innovation. It would appear that global industry players are focusing on developing new processes, materials and equipment, with public research institutes and industry leaders in the private sector driving this dynamism at an unprecedented new level of growth and expansion.

Since 2001, the EPO reports that over 50,000 international patent families (IPFs) have been filed worldwide in direct connection with additive manufacturing. Whereas in the past, these applications were mainly filed by engineering companies, many smaller companies and startups are now taking the plunge. In fact, the number of startups in the 3D printing market is on the rise in all sectors. The EPO report points out, however, that the number of patents filed in the health/medicine sector is impressive – over 10,000 IPFs were published between 2001 and 2010. It should also be pointed out that 3D technologies make it possible to design tailor-made medical devices and go even further in terms of personalization. The transportation market is also dynamic in terms of innovation, with over 7,000 IPFs over the same period, mainly driven by the aeronautical and automotive sectors.

3D printing patents have increased considerably in the past few years (Photo credits: European Patent Office)

The United States Leads the Pack of the Most Innovative Countries for 3D Printing

The United States continues to top the charts as the country with the highest number of patents in additive manufacturing, with nearly 40% of international patent families filed between 2001 and 2020, ahead of the combined total European share by 6.9%. It is directly followed as well by Japan (13.9%) and Germany (13.4%) in second and third place respectively. Companies such as General Electric, Raytheon Technologies and HP filed the most patents worldwide – 1,793, 1,441 and 1,362 respectively. These large, US-based corporations may be at the top of the list, however the report does not neglect to highlight the burgeoning startup sector within AM which continue to grow in the industry and cover a diverse range of applications.

The EPO report goes on to point out the volume of IPFs filed may also serve as an industry barometer, because patents are often filed years in advance. Thus, they can show the potential future growth tendencies of the market. Already growing at an exponential rate, industry revenue tripled from $6 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2022, and its continued growth is not expected to slow down, with industry revenue projected to reach $50 billion by 2028.

The United States and combined European countries account for the majority of AM technology patents (Photo credits: European Patent Office)

Increasingly Dynamic Public Research Institutes

Overall, the study reveals that universities and public research bodies are filing numerous printing patents, and are responsible for 12% of IPFs for the period analyzed. Many universities such as MIT, Carnegie Mellon or Penn State have in-depth additive manufacturing research labs and many university programs are responsible for innovative new creations. Many of these patents also concern the healthcare market, with a significant proportion devoted to biomaterials and bioprinting. Notably, the development of 3D-printed organs and tissues has been meteoric in recent years, and if you’ve been following our news, you’ll be well aware of the progress we’ve made. If you’d like to find out more about these 3D printing patent applications, you can read the full study HERE.

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*Cover Photo Credits: Patent US5121329A – Scott Crump

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