Research firms generally agree that the healthcare sector of the 3D printing market is about 15%. But 15% of “what”? For example, Research Beamestimates the total global 3D printing market to be at $2.8 billion, which would value the healthcare sector at $420 million. According to Wohlers Report 2016, the additive manufacturing (AM) industry grew 25.9% (CAGR — Corporate Annual Growth Rate) to $5.165 billion in 2015 — which would value the healthcare sector at $774 million.
Many market research firms report on specific numbers for the healthcare sector of the 3D printing market, and once again, the results vary significantly. As shown below, Allied Market Research forecasts a market twice as large and growing at twice the rate as the Orbis Researchprediction.
Given this range of numbers, it is likely the market researchers are not measuring the same items. Thus, if you are willing to invest in buying a market research report, it will be important to understand what is and is not included in the report, and if it applies to your requirements.
The market for 3D printers for all sectors is growing even faster. In September 2015, Gartner predicted that the worldwide shipments of 3D printers would reach 496,475in 2016. Again in October 2016, Gartner reported that the worldwide shipments of 219,168 3D printers in 2015 would more than double to reach 455,772 printers in 2016. Although the forecast numbers have decreased by approximately 50,000 units, the rate of growth is still spectacular. The growth in 3D printers has been accelerated by the expiration of several major 3D printing patents, and rapid technological innovations and quality improvements. The added abilities of printers increase the end-use market, thus driving the demand for printers and the overall market size.
What is driving this growth in the healthcare sector?
Allied Market sees the primary demand growth coming from the need for customized external wearable devices for a growing geriatric population who are experiencing osteoporosis, a growing number of amputations, auditory loss, and dental problems. Technological advancements driving market growth include printers able to use multiple materials, the ability to print in multiple colors, and an increasing set of available biocompatible materials. Orbis sees different growth drivers, such as the growing need for medical device manufacturers to produce automated products, the increasing number of cost-curbing initiatives, and the rendering of simulations to perform or prepare for medical procedures.
Where is the healthcare market?
Market researchers agree that the major market is currently in North America, with a market share ranging from 35–40%. This is due to the growing presence of high patient awareness levels, increasing healthcare expenditure, sophisticated healthcare infrastructure and increasing investments in R&D facilities pertaining to the development of 3D technologies based products. However, there are discrepancies around which sector is predicted to have the most growth. Allied Research sees the most significant growth is coming from Asia-Pacific. Orbis finds that Europe is expected to be the fastest growing regional market over the forecast period due to the presence of a large number of R&D funding programs, and the increasing demand for customized medical devices in this region. It is expected to drive market growth over the next six years.
Who are major market players?
The 3D printing healthcare market is largely consolidated. Majority of the market share is governed by the two leading players, 3D Systems Corporations and Stratasys Ltd. In addition, the key market players have adopted strategic partnerships to accelerate the product development process. However recently, these companies are having difficulties.Fox Business reports that Stratasys and archrival 3D Systems (NYSE: DDD) have struggled to grow revenue since early 2015 due to a widespread slowdown of 3D printer purchases among enterprise customers. Stratasys posted a year-over-year revenue decline of 6.2%, driven by a 20% drop in 3D printer sales. Adjusted earnings per share — the most important earnings metric — declined from $0.01 to nearly $0.00. 3D Systems has had a rough 2016 — discontinuing their entire desktop 3D printer line and management changes including a new CEO and CFO in April, and the resignation of both the CMO and COO in June 2016. 
At the end of 2016, a tough year for most, the Motley Fool Investor published an in-depth analysis of the two market leaders and events affecting the companies. A key takeaway is that increased competition is on the way from HP and Carbon3D who are entering the polymer 3D space. GE is also making an aggressive entry into the industrial metal market with the purchases of Arcam and Concept Laser, while their attempt to purchase SLM Solutions fell through.
Other important companies involved in the healthcare sector include EnvisionTEC, Materialise NV, and 3D Systems Software. Companies specifically involved 3D bio-printing include: Organovo, Cyfuse Biomedical, Ekso Bionics, BioBots, Aspect Biosystems, 3D Bioprinting Solutions, and Rokit.
What are the analysts’ materials and methods?
Allied Research and Orbis both agree that polymers are the most preferred materials in the 3D printing healthcare market, but once again they differ on the market share — Allied at 50% and Orbis at 35%. This is driven by the high usage rates in bio-medical models. Both agree that the ceramics segment is projected to be the fastest growing due to its use in the manufacturing of teeth and jaw bones. For technology, the firms agree that laser/electron beam melting is the fastest growing due the growing demand in manufacturing orthopedic implants and hip stems.
What are the market challenges?
The 3D market in healthcare still faces significant challenges to growth. First, there is a shortage of sufficient clinical data to justify expenditures and insurance reimbursements. Second, there is a lack of structured regulatory frameworks. For example, in the US, the FDA has issued a guidance paper but no rules. Legal precedent regarding liability, patents and copyright is still murky. In general, the high costs associated with advanced 3D printers is also a barrier to entry.
In conclusion, the outlook on the healthcare 3D printing market is bright. This is not only supported by analysts, but also by the recent growth of a vibrant 3D printing market as a whole. Given the multi-trillion-worth total U.S. manufacturing market, the upside potential of market growth for the healthcare 3D printing sector (currently <1 billion) is tremendous. Multiple organizations, companies, and government agencies are now organizing themselves to create manufacture standards, regulations, and laws specific for healthcare 3D printing to meet the challenges the market faces.
3D Printing Healthcare Industry — Market Size, Analysis Jan 2016