»Still tremendous untapped potential«
No sign of a cool-down: In 2018, the AM industry further accelerated its already high speed of growth. Worldwide sales of products and services grew 33.5 percent to $ 9.795 billion, according to Wohlers Report 2019, which was published in March. With a growth rate of over 40 percent, the materials sector is an indicator that AM is gaining considerable momentum for series production, with an increasing utilization rate of systems. Revenues from parts sold by service providers grew by an impressive 38.7 percent to a $ 4.1 billion, according to the report.
The 369-page Wohlers Report 2019 includes wide-ranging data on growth, development, and the future of materials, applications, systems, services, and design. It also reveals the latest in AM software, patents, startup companies, standards, investment, and research. Wohlers Associates has tracked growth and sales of 177 producers of industrial AM systems. The number of these companies grew by a surprising 50% in the USA in 2018. While industrial system manufacturers grew notably, desktop 3D printing systems (those that sell for under $5,000) saw significant decline. The overall AM market continues to trend upward, with many new players, hundreds of millions of dollars invested, and innovative new products designed for AM that few envisioned years ago.
The figures are all-the-more astonishing because the AM industry has been in a continuous upward trend for 30 years, with an average annual growth rate of 26.9 percent. The impact of AM worldwide is even greater because internal investments at large companies such as Airbus, Adidas, Ford and Toyota have been excluded in the statistics. Also, Wohlers Associates, a consulting firm that produced the report, estimates that a large number of medium- sized companies with sales of $1-5 billion are investing, some greatly, in AM research and development. This is expected to favorably impact the long-term prospects of the industry.
Historically, the USA is a global heavyweight in industrial 3D printing, which Wohlers Associates defines as systems priced at more than $5,000. According to Wohlers Report 2019, 35.5 percent of the world’s industrial AM systems are installed there. China (10.6), Japan (9.2), Germany (8.3), and Great Britain (4.0) follow by some distance.
According to the report, the fastest growing and arguably most interesting application of AM is final part manufacturing. Wohlers Associates sees »tremendous untapped potential « for increased use of AM for many series production applications. Among them are custom products in quantities of one, spare part manufacturing, and a broad and interesting range of tooling applications. The company is witnessing organizations of all sizes push very hard in these areas, led mostly by users and customers of AM. This is one area in which Wohlers Associates finds tremendously exciting. (tm)