Young AM companies driving competition and sales to a new level

by Thomas Masuch - 27/05/2018

Even after almost three decades, the worldwide AM industry has lost none of its momentum and again achieved a growth rate of more than 20 percent in 2017. According to the recently published Wohlers Report 2018, additive manufacturing generated global sales of $ 7.336 billion last year (+21.0 percent compared to 2016).

For the next few years, Wohlers Associates expects sustained growth of more than 20 percent: as early as 2023, the global market is expected to nearly quadruple to around $ 27.3 billion. »Sales from system manufacturers relatively new to the AM industry contributed to overall industry growth«, says Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates in an interview with the formnext magazine.

Products from these companies are generally less expensive than some of the established machines, and most are open to a wide range of third-party materials. »Consequently, they are driving competition to a new level.« In the new 344-page report, Terry Wohlers and 80 authors in 32 countries describe the latest developments of various technologies and the most important companies in the industry.

The content shows that the dynamic growth of the entire industry is reflected differently by the individual companies: Especially with the already »traditional« AM companies can continue their growth over the years while others have stagnated.

»One reason is their neglect for the ›golden rule‹ of product development. If you do not obsolete your own products, someone else will«, explains Terry Wohlers. »Clinging to the past can be costly because the rules have changed, especially as AM transitions into production applications.«

The focus on manufacturing has apparently meant that since 2010, the average price of industrial 3D printers has risen from around $ 65,000 to around $ 100,000. Wohlers Report 2018 cites two reasons for this: Firstly, high-end metal AM systems began to sell well. The second reason is that the popularity of good quality desktop 3D printers (under $ 5,000 and therefore not included in this statistic) has led to a decline in sales of some industrial systems in the range of $ 10,000 to $ 30,000.

Of the 14,736 industrial 3D printers installed last year, 1,786 were metal AM systems, an increase of 79.9 percent compared to 2016. Wohlers Report 2018 explains this increase in part by several new manufacturers of relatively low-cost metal AM systems entering the market. This has also led to the average price of AM equipment in the metal sector falling sharply from $ 551,585 (2016) to $ 407,883 in 2017.

As a hotbed for young and innovative companies, Asia and especially China is becoming increasingly important. »We uncovered 24 manufacturers of industrial AM systems in the country, and many of them emerged over the past 12 – 18 months«, says Terry Wohlers »Generally, the adoption of AM in Asia has lagged the U.S. and Europe, but now momentum is gaining in that part of the world.«

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