SmarTech Analysis’ latest report highlights top metal AM patent holder companies

Desktop Metal, Velo3D, GE, Boeing and UT among the key patent holders

AM Industry analyst firm SmarTech Analysis just published its latest metal 3D printing patent report. The new report, titled 3D Printed Metals: A Patent Landscape Analysis 2019 provides an unprecedented deep analysis into key metal AM patent holders, with innovative companies such as Velo 3D, Desktop Metal, GE and UT figuring among the ones that are ideally positioned for the next phase of metal AM growth.

The report reveals hidden opportunities and threats, as well as company-specific strengths and weaknesses based on objective “P-Score” analysis of the 3D printed metals sector, using Wisdomain’s ActionablePatents automated patent grading system.

The metal AM patent landscape is extremely complex and varied, with many players approaching it from a mechanical, material science and software standpoint. For example, companies covered in this report include 3D Systems, Arcam, Arconic, Batelle, Boeing, Desktop Metal, EOS, ExOne, GE, HC Starck, Halliburton, HP, Honeywell, Johnson Matthey, Raytheon, Ricoh, Sciaky, Siemens, United Technologies, Velo3D, and Xerox.

The metal AM patent landscape

The SmarTech report goes on to analyze 3D metals printing-related activities of leading universities and institutions. In addition to institutional coverage, it identifies the leading inventors in the 3D-printed metals field, who they work for, and the value of their patented inventions. SmarTech’s patent analysis also reveals the degree to which the public corporate strategy of major firms in the 3D printing metals space is backed up (or not) by patent strategy.

ƒmetalThis report includes an Excel database containing 1,381 worldwide patent references for 3D printing metals and processes used to make them. This database will be a valuable resource to anyone researching the worldwide patent landscape for 3D printing metals. It enables them to determine the top-cited patents in their field, how many patents are being filed each year, what patent families are already claimed and where new patent rights may be available. SmarTech’s research covers both granted patents and published applications. The information is drawn from U.S., EP, WIPO PCT, Chinese, and Japanese sources.

SmarTech believes that this report will enable purchasers to build a competitive advantage based on a deeper understanding of the patent environment. For example, readers will be able to secure IP in the 3D printed metals areas that are less populated, and also avoid patent disputes in the future. We believe this report will be required reading for IP professionals at firms supplying metals to the 3DP industry as well as those at 3D printing equipment and service companies. It is also aimed at patent attorneys, engineers, investment bankers and others who need a comprehensive overview of 3D-printed metals activities.

Velo 3D and Desktop Metal leading the pack

SmarTech has learned that late entrants in the metal AM segment, Velo3D and Desktop Metal, have built up impressive patent portfolios, with Velo3D currently the top assignee of patents for 3D printing metals. In general, some of the most interesting patent portfolios are held by smaller firms. SmarTech’s analysis also shows that Desktop Metal has many quality patents based on P-Scores, with some of the most prolific inventors in the 3D printing metals sector (it has twice the number of applications than the next company down on the applications list).

SmarTech’s analysis reveals a mixed patent story for established metal printer firms. The size of GE’s portfolio in the industry sectors considered in this report is consistent with the company’s ambitious goals for 3D printing metals. GE’s Arcam subsidiary gets particularly high P-Scores for its U.S. patents. EOS is also high on quality patents. By contrast, 3D Systems does not stand out from the perspective of a patent, especially when considered in terms of assignee applications.

A prototype of a 3D printed heat exchanger designed by GE researchers Dan Erno and Bill Gerstler at GE’s Research campus in Niskayuna, NY. This heat exchanger was designed to have a tri-furcating structure where both fluids split in three directions and recombine continuously throughout the device, mimicking bio-inspired natural concepts like the human lungs to improve thermal efficiency. Images credit: GE Research.

An important source of IP for 3D metals printing is the aerospace segment. Boeing and United Technologies (UTI) are both forces to be reckoned with in the 3D printing metals space. Boeing’s 3D printing metals patents are widely cited, suggesting that the usefulness of these patents goes beyond Boeing’s internal needs. UTI is one of the most aggressive firms when it comes to filing U.S. patent applications in the 3D printing metals space, ranking slightly behind Desktop Metal and Velo3D.

Finally, China is also a force to be reckoned with. China. U.S. entities are likely to continue to lead R&D efforts and U.S. patent filings for 3D printing metals in the near term, but may eventually fall, reflecting the negative macro-climate. For now, there are relatively few Chinese patents in this space. Chengdu New Keli Chemical Science is the current leader. Major players in the West are not investing in patent protection in China, since they may believe it affords them little protection.

Davide Sher

Since 2002, I have built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, I spent 12 years in the United States, where I received my Bachelor of Arts undergraduate degree. As a journalist covering the tech industry - especially the videogame industry - for over 10 years, I began covering the AM industry specifically in 2013, as blogger. In 2016 I co-founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. (now 3dpbm) which operates in marketing, editorial, and market analysis & consultancy services for the additive manufacturing industry. 3dpbm publishes 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, and leading news and insights websites 3D Printing Media Network and Replicatore. I am also a Senior Analyst for leading US-based firm SmarTech Analysis focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets.

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