Posted on 27/9/2023

Rapid growth in patent filings in 3D printing and additive manufacturing over the last decade

What conclusions can we draw from the huge recent growth of patent filings in 3D printing?

A recent report published by the European Patent Office (EPO) details the huge surge in innovation in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing industry over the last decade. Surprisingly, the report found that that between 2013 and 2020, international patent families in 3D printing technologies grew at an average annual rate of 26.3%. This rate was nearly eight times faster than that for all technology fields combined in the same period (3.3%).

Additionally, the EPO note that the 3D printing market is also becoming more diverse with smaller start ups being responsible for a growing proportion of filings in more recent years in contrast to established engineering companies, which were responsible for the majority of patent filings in earlier years.

Europe and US leading the race in 3D printing patents

In relation to worldwide research and development in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing fields, Europe and the US are leading the race in global 3D printing patents, with the US accounting for 39.8% of all International patent families (IPFs). IPFs represent an invention for which a patent application has been filed in two or more countries worldwide. Europe then closely follows accounting for a 32.9% share with Germany representing the largest share of IPFs in Europe at 13.4% with France and the UK accounting for 3.9% and 3.8% respectively.

Research and development in 3D printing and additive manufacturing still appears slow in Asia with Japan accounting for 13.9% of all 3D printing IPFs, China at only 3.7% and South Korea at 3.1%. This could mean that significant growth and investment in this field from Asian companies is still to come.

The report also breaks down the companies responsible for the patent filings. US, European, and Japanese companies all feature in the top 20 additive manufacturing patent applicants, with the top five being General Electric (US), Raytheon Technologies (US), HP (US), Siemens (DE) and Fujifilm (JP). The top UK company is Rolls Royce sitting in seventh place.

In addition to large companies, Universities and public research organisations also account for 12% of IPFs. This is almost double their typical share of 7% and so shows this field is a key area of research and development with wide scope for patentability.

Revenue and applications of 3D printing

The report also looks into the sectors in which the 3D printing patents are being filed. Interestingly, the health and medical sector has the largest number of patent filings with 3D printing proving advantageous for patient-specific implants, anatomical models and dental applications.  This sector is closely followed by the transportation sector, where 3D printing is being utilised to manufacture components for vehicles. The remaining sectors in order of the number of IPFs are machine tooling, energy, consumer goods, electronics, construction and food.

This growth and application of 3D printing across multiple industries is also observed in the industry revenue. In the last several years, the industry revenue has tripled, rising from approximately $6 billion in 2016 to $18 billion in 2022. This growth is only projected to continue with recent projections suggesting that the additive manufacturing market could surpass the $50 billion mark by 2028, and exceed $100 billion by 2032.


From the study, it is clear that the field of 3D printing and additive manufacturing is a rapidly growing area of technology with application in multiple sectors, and already responsible for substantial revenues with the market expected to surpass $100 billion by 2032.

As such, securing early patent protection in the field could help businesses gain a critical foothold in this growing field as well as provide a valuable asset to secure funding for further research and development. Moreover, securing early patent protection also provides the opportunity to license the inventions to larger companies who are looking to enter the field or expand their existing operations.

Consequently, securing patent protection for your inventions in the field of 3D printing and additive manufacturing could be an invaluable opportunity as this industry continues its rapid growth.

If you are currently developing and working with 3D printing processes and you have developed a new invention in the field, such as a new material for use in 3D printing or a new process or machine, and are interested in securing patent protection, please get in touch to speak with one of our attorneys.

Wilson Gunn