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Switzerland a leader in 3D printing technology, patent records show

Large Swiss firms like Novartis, universities and SMEs are behind patent applications for 3D printing technologies between 2010 and 2018. © Keystone / Urs Flueeler

In relation to its population size, between 2010 and 2018 Switzerland filed more patent applications for 3D printing technologies than any other European country, the European Patent Office said on Monday.

Among the firms most active in the field of additive manufacturing are the pharmaceutical company Novartis, hearing aid manufacturer Sonova, chemical firm Clariant, the watchmaker Swatch and the food giant Nestlé. SMEs are behind more than a quarter of the patent applications; educational institutions, including the federal technology institute ETH Zurich, account for 13%.

“The technology is increasingly mature, with growing recognition of its added value, particularly in saving resources and producing complex products at lower costs,” said the patent office, adding in its press release that 3D printing has “the potential to revolutionise the entire value chain of companies.”

By region, the canton of Zurich ranked third for the number of patent applications, behind Munich and Barcelona. Cantons Aargau and Vaud also finished in the top 20.

Globally, Europe and the United States are leaders in 3D printing innovation, accounting for 47% and 35% of all patent applications, respectively.

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