3D Printing at Stratasys—3D Printing Markets

In my previous post I looked at the different 3D printing technologies available through the market leader Stratasys. In this second post, I will go much deeper into the different materials and markets where Stratasys provides solutions to customers. For me, there were quite a few surprises where I did not expect 3D printed parts…

Materials and Markets

Stratasys primarily focuses on polymer printing as it caters to a larger market. Although metal 3D printing options such as laser sintering or laser melting are available, they require high-powered and expensive lasers, making the process costly. In contrast, polymer 3D printers range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of euros, while laser sintering can cost hundreds of thousands of euros. For those seeking metal parts, it may be more cost-effective to print a wax model and use a lost wax model casting technique.

One challenge for 3D printing companies is reaching potential customers who may not be aware that 3D printing is a viable option for them. 3D printing excels at producing small lot sizes or quantities, making it an excellent choice for products that are only produced in small batches.

General Manufacturing

One prime application of 3D printing is for prototyping. If you just need a part quickly, then 3D printing is an option. Another use of 3D printing is for molds and other tools. Grippers for smaller robots can be printed in 3D, albeit currently the material strength is still not enough for large and powerful robots.

Molds work especially well if they are subject only to lower temperatures and forces. Thermoforming is a great example, as is the making of foam parts. With higher temperatures, the number of repetitions before the mold degrades is reduced, but Stratasys claims that their molds can withstand a few hundred shots for injection molding.

Automotive and Land Transportation

While conventional techniques are best suited for mass production, such as in the automotive industry, 3D printing still has its uses. For instance, Audi creates some of their rear lights using PolyJet printing for their prototypes. The quality is so high that their light engineers could not distinguish between the 3D printed and the normal product in their light test room.

In China, BMW Mini offers customization of their side blinkers using PolyJet printing. For around EUR 300, customers can add their own 3D logo to their blinker. Maserati also offers personalization options for their seat structure using 3D printing.

For industrial customers, trains are a possible market for 3D printing. For example, in Germany, the Deutsche Bahn uses 3D printed parts for the air vents and air channels in their dining cars of the latest models, which is by nature a small quantity of parts.

Aerospace Industries

Aircrafts are typically produced in smaller quantities, making 3D printing a viable option for some of their parts. As with most industries, 3D printed parts can be used for prototyping and to make tools.

Additionally, the ability to produce small quantities and especially the lightweight nature of 3D printed parts make them an attractive option for this market. For instance, the A320 aircraft has around 350 3D printed parts, many of which are produced using Stratasys printers. If you are one of the lucky ones to enjoy a first class seat in the A320, you are surrounded by quite a few 3D printed parts made on Stratasys printers. VIP aircrafts also make use of 3D printing technology.


The maritime industry is a rapidly growing market for 3D printing, particularly for large ships that are produced in smaller quantities, such as cruise ships. Stratasys has developed materials that are certified to withstand the harsh outdoor ocean environment, as well as food-safe materials for use in onboard kitchens and materials for use in guest rooms. Luxury yachts also increasingly make use of 3D printed parts.


The use of 3D printing in the maritime industry is not limited to civilian ships, as the US Navy has a major contract with Stratasys and another Navy is experimenting with using a Stratasys container on one of their Frigates to make spare parts while en route. Stratasys technology is also used by the German Bundeswehr. They brought two containers of 3D printers to Afghanistan to quickly print some spare parts. I also know that quite a few combat aircraft have 3D printed parts like air vents.


The fashion industry is exploring the use of 3D printing to create unique and innovative apparel. 3D printers have traditionally struggled with printing soft, fluffy materials like textiles. In the past, I have seen fashion that looked like a chain-mail.

However, Stratasys has developed a technique called PolyJet printing, which allows for direct printing on textiles. This creates impressive 3D patterns on the fabric. Although the cost of this technology is still relatively high, it is becoming more accessible and is making its way into the middle price range.


The dental industry also uses 3D printing, for example for bite guards. If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may prescribe you a bite guard to wear while you sleep so your teeth do not get ground down. These are often printed using 3D technology.

Overall, there are (for me) a surprising number of applications for 3D printing, especially as the speed of the printing goes up and the price goes down. Maybe one of these is also something for you? Now, go out, see if some of your low-volume parts can be printed in 3D, and organize your industry!

PS: Many thanks to the people from Stratasys for the detailed information and tour, as well as the samples!

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