United States Leads Boom in 3D Printing Patents at European Patent OfficeJuly 14, 2020
With a 35-percent share of patent applications in the field of additive manufacturing (AM) at the European Patent Office (EPO), U.S. companies are the clear leaders in innovating AM, according to a just-released study by the EPO.
The EPO has been experiencing a boom in patents in 3D printing, reveals the study, with AM patent applications having increased at an average rate of 36 percent from 2015 to 2018. This is more than ten times greater than the average annual growth of all applications at the EPO combined in the same period.
The list of top applicants at the EPO for AM patents is led by two U.S. companies: General Electric (GE), and United Technologies, followed by Siemens from Germany. Meanwhile, HP ranks fourth, 3M sixth, and Boeing ninth. Thus, five out of the top ten applicants for EPO AM patents are U.S. companies. In addition, Nike tops 3D printing patent applications in consumer goods, while four US companies, Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Zimmer Biomet and Procter & Gamble, lead in health applications of 3D printing technology. Overall, the United States and Europe dominate the ranking of top applicants, with 11 U.S. and eight European companies among the leading 25 applicants.
But not all AM-related patent applications are filed by large corporations, according to the EPO study. Twenty-three percent of U.S. inventions in AM originate with small to mid-sized enterprises, with 12 percent from universities and research organizations. The leading U.S. SMEs in patenting AM technologies at the EPO are Envisiontec Inc., Carbon Inc. and Seurat Technologies Inc. The U.S. universities filing the most AM patent applications are Harvard, MIT, University of California San Francisco, Columbia University and California Institute of Technology.
Health, energy and transport represent the largest sectors represented in EPO AM patents applications. The study further indicates that the impact of AM technologies spans a large variety of industries. Since 2010 the use of AM in the health sector has generated the greatest demand for patents (4018 applications), followed by energy and transport, both generating significant paten- application volumes (2001 and 961 applications respectively). Rapid growth also was observed in areas such as industrial tooling, electronics, construction and consumer goods, as well as the food sector.