In the past decade, there has been a substantial increase in patent filings for 3D printing, as revealed by a study conducted by the EPO.

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The world of additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, has seen a significant surge in innovation over the past decade. This is according to a recent report published by the European Patent Office (EPO). The study, titled “Innovation Trends in Additive Manufacturing,” reveals that between 2013 and 2020, international patent families in 3D printing technologies grew at an average annual rate of 26.3%. This growth is nearly eight times faster than the overall average for all technology fields combined during the same period, which was 3.3%.

One notable development highlighted in the report is the increasing diversity within the 3D printing market. In the past, the main players were established engineering companies. However, there has been a rise in the number of start-ups and specialized additive manufacturing companies entering the scene. In total, over 50,000 international patent families (IPFs) for 3D printing technologies have been filed worldwide since 2001. An IPF represents a significant invention for which patent applications have been filed in two or more countries globally.

EPO President António Campinos commented on the study, stating, “With this study, we’re taking a global perspective on the 3D printing revolution using international patent data to report on the scope and implications of this technology trend.” He also highlighted that Europe has secured four of the top ten spots for research institutions in additive manufacturing innovation. This indicates that technical progress in the field often stems from cutting-edge research conducted in these institutions, boding well for the future of the industry.

When it comes to leading the global race for 3D printing innovation, Europe and the United States come out on top. The United States holds the top spot, with 39.8% of all IPFs related to additive manufacturing filed between 2001 and 2020. Europe, represented by its 39 EPO member states, is a close second with a 32.9% share. Collectively, these two regions account for nearly three-quarters of worldwide 3D printing innovation. Japan occupies 13.9% of all 3D printing IPFs, while China and South Korea make up 3.7% and 3.1% respectively.

Within Europe, Germany has emerged as the clear leader, accounting for 41% of the continent’s share of 3D printing innovation. France follows in second place with a 12% contribution. In terms of companies, those from the United States, Europe, and Japan dominate the list of top additive manufacturing patent applicants. The top three within this list are General Electric, Raytheon Technologies, and HP. Siemens, in fourth position, represents Europe’s strongest player with almost 1,000 IPFs. While large engineering companies predominate the list, the additive manufacturing innovation ecosystem also includes several specialized 3D printing companies and a thriving start-up scene, as evidenced by the presence of smaller entities in the EPO’s statistics.

For more information and the full report, you can visit the VoxelMatters blog.

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