Legal and Regulatory

Patent data puts 3D printing in top 10 fastest growing technologies of 2020

The latest annual report from IFI CLAIMS Patent Services has identified 3D printing as the ninth fastest growing technology of 2020, based on US Patent and Trademark Office data.

The report compiles the enterprises, technologies, and countries that have received the most patents over the past year. Throughout 2020, patent grants declined less than one percent from 2019 to 352,013, despite the global Covid-19 pandemic, while patent applications rose almost five percent, continuing an upward trend seen for the past four years.

Significantly, both Kinpo Electronics and XYZprinting – subsidiaries of Kinpo Group – were included in the top five firms for filing 3D printing patents in 2020, with a combined patent application total of 545.

“Overall, US patent activity was down slightly last year, despite the pandemic,” said Mike Baycroft, CRO of IFI CLAIMS. “This is a minor downtick in what’s been a largely upward trajectory we’ve seen over the past decade, and it’s still one percent higher than what we saw in 2018.”

“Another positive indicator is that published pre-grant applications saw a nominal increase in 2020. But we’ll have to wait at least another year before we can determine if the pandemic had any effect.”

3D printing is ninth fastest growing technology

IFI CLAIMS identified the 10 fastest growing technologies based on US patent application data through the end of 2020, grouping patent publications by Cooperative Patent Classification (CPC) codes. CPC groups were then screened by size in 2020 and for rapid growth over a four year period from 2016 to 2020. 

In regards to 3D printing, the report shows the patent classification B33Y 40 (3D Printing; Auxiliary operations or equipment) is growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 27.14 percent. This places 3D printing as the ninth fastest growing technology of 2020 in IFI CLAIMS’ report. In 2017, 3D printing came in second place in the annual report after patent applications in the B33Y patent classification saw a 35 percent CAGR between 2013 and 2017.

Taking the top spot for 2020 with a four-year growth rate more than double that of 3D printing was computer systems based on biological models (67 percent CAGR), followed by electrical smoking devices with 55 percent, and Angiosperms – science technologies related to plant and seed development – at 49 percent. Machine learning was identified as the fourth fastest growing technology at 46 percent CAGR, while quantum computers, control systems for non-electric variables, information displays, information transfer, and automatic pilots and navigation systems for vehicles also made the list.

Patent Classification B33Y 40 3D Printing is growing at a CAGR of 27.14 percent. Image via IFI CLAIMS.
Patent Classification B33Y 40 3D Printing is growing at a CAGR of 27.14 percent. Image via IFI CLAIMS.

HP listed the most 3D printing patent applications in 2020, but Kinpo Group total supersedes

In 2020, the US received 47 percent of all new US patent grants with 164,379 overall, the largest share of any single country and triple the amount granted to Japanese firms (52,429) which received the second-largest share. South Korea took third place on the list with 22,400, ahead of China which ranked fourth with 18,792 grants.

The enterprises with the greatest number of 3D printing 2020 published patent applications are listed as follows:

Hewlett Packard Development (HP) – 470

General Electric (GE) – 331

Kinpo Electronics – 273

XYZprinting – 272

Boeing – 195

Interestingly, as Kinpo Electronics and XYZprinting are both subsidiaries of Kinpo Group, the data suggests the Kinpo Group filed a total of 545 3D printing patents in 2020, superseding that of HP by a significant margin.

Some of the patents included in this data are a Selectable Drive System from HP, manufacturing footwear utilizing foam particles from Nike, Markforged’s sintering furnace, and patents for Boeing’s method for treating powder particles with plasma radiation.

Taking a look at the rest of IFI CLAIMS’ Top 1,000 list of companies that received US patents in 2020, the top 10 companies named as being most active in 3D printing patents also includes Xerox, down 25 percent on the number of patents it filed in 2019, Continuous Composites which increased its patent grants from one in 2019 to 35 in 2020, and Carbon, which increased its patent activity by 93 percent. Concept Laser was the ninth most active company in 3D printing patents in 2020, followed by Applied Materials which more than doubled its amount of patent grants compared to the previous year. 

Other firms that saw large increases in their 3D patent activity in 2020 include Ford Global Technologies (up 157 percent), Autodesk (up 91 percent), Thermwood Corp with an 89 percent increase, and Align Technology with an 83 percent increase in activity.

More information about the 2020 Patent Trends and Insights from IFI CLAIMS Patent Services is available online.

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Featured image shows 3D printing was ranked the ninth fastest growing technology in 2020. Image via IFI CLAIMS.