The additive manufacturing field is crammed with numerous start-ups vying to establish their niches and differentiate themselves from their peers in the sector. Manufacturers looking to innovate may in fact find it challenging to sift through the wealth of options available when searching for an equipment vendor or even a development partner.
To the rescue comes market research company Lux Research, which has employed a model to map several dozen start-ups and incumbents throughout the world, rating their business execution and technical prowess using various metrics, and thereby classifying them by their perceived potential.
More details will be given by Dayton Horvath, the researcher at Lux Research responsible for the study, in a presentation on Tuesday, June 13 at a conference co-located with the Plastic East 2017 and MD&M East 2017 organized by PlasticsToday’s publisher UBM.
One interesting finding of the study is that while incumbents, which includes listed companies, are the ones with the track records that have earned the trust of end users, it is often the start-ups that can innovate faster to capture customer demand. Horvath highlights three companies in particular that have carved out niches and established leadership positions in the field of continuous fiber-reinforced 3D printing.
“Although there is an entire ecosystem of fiber-reinforced composite 3D printing companies and printable materials, only Continuous Composites, Markforged, and Arevo have demonstrated technologies that incorporate continuous fiber into each layer of a printed part, making them the startup technology leaders driving widespread adoption of automated chopped and continuous fiber-reinforced part production without large-scale capital expenditure,” noted Horvath in a recent blog. All three companies were founded in 2013, have raised angel or venture funding, and have numerous patent applications filed, with all three having at least one U.S. patent granted.
Continuous Composites uses fast UV light-curing thermosets reinforced with any combination of continuous fibers including fiberglass, carbon fiber, Kevlar fiber, copper wire, or fiber optic strands on a five-axis gantry system.
Markforged uses a nylon or chopped carbon fiber-reinforced nylon that can be reinforced with fiberglass, carbon fiber, or Kevlar fiber on a three-axis gantry system.
Arevo uses high-performance engineering thermoplastics such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) reinforced with chopped carbon fiber and/or continuous carbon fiber using a six-axis robotic arm.
Other newcomers of note are Adaptive3D, which is said to be very well positioned with a strong material portfolio for the sterolithography platform, and Oxford Performance Materials, which has a solid position in selective laser sintering (SLS) of PEKK and other advanced engineering plastic for medical applications such as customized implants for bone replacement.