Tokyo (SCCIJ) – In terms of 3D printing innovations, the European Patent Office is viewing Europe as the leader, followed by the U.S. and Asia. And within Europe, Switzerland occupies a top position. No other country has applied for so many patents in the field of 3D printing technology per inhabitant and in relation to its economic performance.
European global hub
European patent applications for additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, increased at an average annual rate of 36% from 2015 to 2018, a new study from the European Patent Office (EPO) shows. This is more than ten times greater than the average annual growth of all applications at the office combined in the same period.
The report, entitled “Patents and additive manufacturing – Trends in 3D printing technologies” (PDF), demonstrates that Europe is a global leader in this technology, with European inventors and businesses accounting for almost half of 3D printing patent applications filed in the period from 2010 to 2018.
“The surge in additive manufacturing is part of the broader, rapid rise of digital technologies overall,” says EPO President António Campinos. “Europe has become a global hub for innovation in fast-growing digital fields, including additive manufacturing technologies.”
Europe at the forefront
European countries accounted for 47% (or 7 863) of all 3D printing inventions for which patent applications were filed at the EPO between 2010 and 2018. Germany generated 19% (or 3,155) of all patent applications in this field. Switzerland with its comparatively big share of 3.6% also showed a strong pattern of specialization in 3D printing patenting. Worldwide, the U.S. is the top country of origin with 35% (or 5,747) of the applications.
The analysis shows that the top 25 applicants accounted for about 30% (or 6,548) of all such patent applications filed between 2000 and 2018. Led by the large U.S. comapanies General Electric and United Technologies, with Europe’s Siemens in third place, the ranking also lists Fujifilm, Canon, and Ricoh from Japan. Within Switzerland, the hearing aid manufacturer Sonova, the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the chemical specialist Clariant, the watch manufacturer Swatch and the food multinational Nestlé were among the leading patent applicants.
Small and medium-sized Swiss enterprises, with a share of more than a quarter, contribute an above-average proportion of 3D printing patent applications compared with the rest of Europe. The report mentions Sintratec, Medartis, and Hirschberg Engineering by name. In addition, 13% of Swiss patent applications come from universities, with the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology at the forefront. In regional terms, Zurich ranks third behind Munich and Barcelona and ahead of Berlin in terms of the number of patent applications for 3D printing. The canton of Aargau ranks 8th and the canton of Vaud 17th.
Text: SCCIJ partly based on material of EPO