In today’s RAPID news, Terry Wohlers gave his annual State of the Industry address. Here are a few of his points I found most interesting.
–Even though this industry is 25 years old, we are just getting started in gaining the knowledge we will need to make objects using this technology in a manufacturing capacity.
–From 2010 to 2013, revenues grew about 28.6%. However, actual technical advances in this technology during that time are less than that. From the chart Wohlers showed, you could guess that the level of advances is less than half of the revenue growth figure.
–In 2012, 7,771 professional AM machines (i.e. units priced at more than $5000) were sold.
–In 2012, 35,508 personal 3D printer units (i.e. units priced between $200 and $5000) were sold. However, Wohlers noted that he thought the “low-hanging” fruit had been picked. For more units to be sold in the future, the manufacturers of these personal 3D printing systems will have to offer something else to attract a wider buying customer.
–Interestingly, even though the number of personal 3D printing units is huge, the revenue from them accounts for only 6.5% of total 3D printing revenue in 2012.
–The U.S. is still first in number of units sold, we hold 38% of the market. Japan is next with 9.7%, then Germany with 9.4, and then China with 8.7%. Other countries in the world make up the rest, each holding a few percentage points.
–GE Aviation is a big proponent of Additive Manufacturing. They claim, as an example, that they have manufactured a fuel nozzle that is 5 times more durable than conventional designs. It will be placed on a number of engine designs soon.
–Wohlers noted that the U.S. automotive market appears to be slow to adopt this technology. He commented that it might be the production numbers needed, or some other issue. But high-end automotive manufacturers like Lamborghini, Mercedes Benz, and Aston Martin are well on their way, including metal AM printed parts in many of their automobiles.
–China is attempting to get into this market in a big way. The Chinese government plans to spend $245 million for the first three years of a seven-year project. China wants to become the number one manufacturer of additive manufacturing systems within three years. They will likely do this through acquisition. Part of their drive to be number one comes from the recent remarks President Obama made about additive manufacturing. Because of the President’s emphasis, China is interested.
–Other countries making a large investment in this technology include Singapore, Japan (who, noted Wohlers, nearly beat Chuck Hull to the development of the first stereolithography machine. Japan’s patent process gave Mr. Hull the edge). Australia and South Africa are also making strides in this industry.
–by 2021, Wohlers forecasts that this industry will reach more than $10 Billion in revenue. As he noted, additive manufacturing is becoming a real industry.