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A NEW INDUSTRY FINDS ITS WAY:
PLOTTING A COURSE FOR
3D PRINTING IN KOREA
MARKET POTENTIAL OF
THE 3D PRINTING INDUSTRY
The groundbreaking technology of 3D printng is stll in its
infancy, and massive rewards seem assured for the rst
companies to develop the powerful and versatle tools
necessary to disrupt the current manufacturing paradigm.
With 3D printng’s holy grail of speed, accuracy, high
volume and aordable up-front costs coming closer with
each passing year, questons surrounding the technology
become less a mater of if than when – and for the players
involved, the focus inevitably turns to the ever more
critcal queston of who.
With Korea actng as a fast follower rather than an innovator
in this industry, Korean companies are now setng their
sights on catching up to the eld in this quickly-developing
sector. In this paper, we review the Korean 3D printng
industry in its present state, including its most promising
opportunites as well as the barriers to success it currently
faces. We then put a special focus on the major Korean
players, the parts of industry where the technology is most
likely to take hold in the coming years, and how both
government and business are stepping up to the challenge.
With eventual success expected across all sectors of
commerce and society, the most realistc avenues of
success for the early years of 3D printng are likely to come
in the form of B2B undertakings, namely health care,
public services (natonal defense, railway, reghtng, etc.)
and the manufacturing industry.
The Korean 3D printng market is expected to undergo a
22.9% CAGR from 2016 to 2019, which is lower than that
of the global market at 31%. This dierence is mainly due
to the relatvely late adopton of the technology compared
to other advanced countries, which means a longer inital
stage is required within the Korean market.
Following current projectons, 3D printng is on course to
reach a total industry value of US$376 million by 2018.
This contnuing rise highly correlates with the understanding
shared by both government and the general public that
the fourth industry revoluton, including 3D printng, is the
key to future growth.
Ipsos Business Consulting3D Printng in Korea | 3
BARRIERS TO GROWTH
1.) A rapid increase of interest within the educaton
The general public’s interest is generated from the
media and early adopters:
3D printng is frequently
reported in the media, and 3D printng departments
have appeared in several universites. Also, interest
from primary, middle, and high schools has increased
3D printer sales in the educaton sector.
2.) The government’s strong support for the industry
The government’s commitment to the 3D printng industry
began in 2014, and is becoming more concrete in its
eect on industrial performance:
Although the Korean
government started somewhat behind the worldwide
curve in embracing this burgeoning eld, it now sees
the potental in 3D printng’s antcipated rewards of
concrete technology R&D, industry infrastructure
reinforcement, and relatonal basefoundaton. Details
are on page 9.
Low quality of 3D printng equipment
SMEs (Small and medium-sized
enterprises) are the majority:
68% of the
companies in the Korean 3D printng
industry are start-up rms that were
established within the past 7 years.
Also, about 90% are SMEs with less than
1B KRW (=approx. 0.9M USD) in annual
sales and fewer than 10 employees.2
Inadequate talent pool in the workforce
Shortage of 3D printng professionals:
to its short history, the industry is
perceived to lack 3D printng experts. In a
2017 survey, 96 out of 194 3D printng
related SMEs answered that they have
diculty sourcing their 3D printng
workforce, and the most heavily cited
reasons for explaining the inadequacy of
In a fast-moving eld, Korea’s 3D printng industry
stll remains at an early stage and requires strong
support from the government. The Korean government
decided to begin earnest support of the 3D printng
industry in 2014, which lagged slightly compared to
other countries. Shortalls from the supplier side
may be just as consequental, as Korea’s 3D printng
industry currently remains highly dependent on
imports for relevant equipment and materials.
Overseas manufacturers presently account for
more than 80% of total 3D printer sales in Korea.
Sources: Korean Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP).
Note: Korea’s May 2017 natonal electon and subsequent fallout (the electon has not yet
taken place at the tme of this writng) may prove to be a signicant moment in the government’s
relatonship to this industry, as new leadership could result in government incentves taking
a dierent directon in the years to come. Positve government involvement is crucial when
guiding a young industry toward success, and observers will be keeping a close eye on the
new administraton for any changes in its level of support.
Ipsos Business Consulting3D Printng in Korea | 4
3D printng suppliers face several additonal barriers
to development, such as:main reasons
for this growth
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