Additive manufacturing is a manufacturing technique that builds objects by using various materials like polymers, composites, or other metals. It builds them in a layer by layer approach and is popularly known as 3D printing. Additive manufacturing has been present in some form since the 1980’s but has only recently begun to be adopted in a range of manufacturing applications. One area is the retail 3D printing market because retailers are the perfect venue for using 3D printing. They need to focus on product differentiation and they could also offer this technology as a service to their customers. 3D printing can have a profound impact on every aspect of the retail industry i.e. the manufacturer, distributor and retailer. It can be used by retailers to create custom products, print spare parts for any existing ones and also to dematerialize the supply chain, saving transport, storage, manufacturing and also retail cost.
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Retail 3D Printing Market Drivers
One of the main drivers of the retail 3D printing market is the ability of retailers to offer it as a differentiating service. Customers will be able to avail of 3D printing which will provide them affordable and high quality products. Retail 3D printing at certified stores will also assure customers of the product not being a counterfeit along with warranties offered on it. Another factor could be the incentive to go green and reduce pollution. Investing in the retail 3D printing market allows retailers to drastically reduce their carbon footprint concerned with production and distribution. A focus on encouraging and providing a boost to fledgling start-ups will also help the retail 3D printing market. These companies can use 3D printers to simply turn “ideas into ready products”, particularly with respect to jewellery, toys, accessories and other goods.
Retail 3D Printing Market Restraints
A key challenge in the retail 3D printing market is the time lag between the customer expectations and the actual time taken for delivery. 3D printing is a slow, time-consuming process which frequently takes hours if not days. This can result in a potential loss of sale to a nimbler, fast-moving competitor. While product differentiation is a key selling point for retail 3D printing, it can also be a weakness since some products may require assistance from an expert like a 3D designer. The customer might need to have some knowledge of special design software which might not always be feasible. This could be overcome by mobile 3D printers which could deliver products right at a customer’s doorstep. Another major issue is that of cost as 3D printing machines, particularly those using metal parts are extremely expensive. Metal laser melting machines can cost anywhere between $500,000 to millions of dollars each. This makes it very difficult for smaller retailers to invest in this technology and even large, global retail chains would seriously consider the cost-benefit analysis. However, the cost is expected to come down in the long run, increasing the scope of the retail 3D printing market.
Retail 3D Printing Market Key Regions
The largest retail and thereby also the largest retail 3D printing market in the world is currently the U.S.A. This is because it has the world’s largest economy, a very high disposable income and also a preference of customers to customize goods and services according to their personal tastes. China is poised to become the largest retail market by the end of this decade, overtaking the U.S. This is primarily because of rising wages, greater urbanization and a much improved standard of living. Companies would also be advised to focus on the Indian, Brazilian and Middle Eastern retail 3D printing market for the same reasons mentioned above.
Retail 3D Printing Market Key Market Players
Some companies operating in the retail 3D printing market are 3D Systems, Arcam AB, Stratasys Ltd., Autodesk, Inc., Hoganas AB, Ponoko Limited, The ExOne Company, Optomec, Inc, Organavo Holdings, Inc, and Voxeljet AG.
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