Terry Wohlers recently released his figures on projected growth for the additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) industry. According to Wohlers, the global market for additive manufacturing products and services in 2012 grew 28.6% (CAGR) to $2.204 billion. This is up from $1.714 billion in 2011, when it grew 29.4%. Growth was 24.1% in 2010.
Unit sales of professional-grade, industrial systems were solid in 2012. Growth was an estimated 19.3% to 7,771 units, excluding sales of “personal” systems (3D printers that sell for under $5,000). This compares to an estimated 6,513 units in 2011 when growth was a cool 5.6%. In 2010, growth was hot at 37.4%.
Professional-grade, industrial additive-manufacturing systems, which sell for more than $5,000) have been tracked and discussed in the Wohlers Report for nearly two decades. Excluded are the low-cost personal systems, the majority of which originated from the RepRap open-source 3D printer development project at the University of Bath in the UK.
Growth of personal 3D printers averaged 346% each year from 2008 through 2011. In 2012, the increase cooled significantly to an estimated 46.3%. Most of the machines are being sold to hobbyists, do-it-yourselfers, engineering students, and educational institutions. Typically, the machines in this category are not being used for professional/industrial applications
In addition, Wohlers gave his impressions of additive manufacturing in China. Noted Wohlers, the central government, as well as provinces and cities, are planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into 3D printing over the next several years. One 500-employee Chinese company, with assistance from a city and provincial government, is expected to invest about $120 million over the next three years.
Another company, Haier, is going to enter the 3D printing area, according to a May 31, 2013 article published by China Daily Europe. With 80,000 employees, Haier is the world’s largest supplier of white goods. The company also manufactures computers, televisions, air conditioners, and many other household products. Xinqi Zhang, mayor of Qingdao (Haier’s headquarters location), said that the 3D printing industry needs the support of government due to the cost of implementing the technology. Zhang did not disclose the amount that Haier is planning to invest.
The Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA), a Beijing organization, launched the World 3D Printing Technology Alliance in May 2013. Its primary purpose is to promote industrial cooperation within the 3D printing industry. Jun Luo, AMA’s CEO, believes revenues from 3D printing products and services in China will reach $1.6 billion in three years, making it the world’s largest market for 3D printing. According to Wohlers Report 2013, the worldwide 3D printing market in 2012 was $2.2 billion, so it would be difficult for China to grow so large in such a short time. AMA plans to establish 10 innovation institutes on 3D printing in China, with initial funding of $3.3 million per institute.
AMA was the organizer of the 2013 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference held in Beijing May 30-31. More than 600 people attended the event, including 100 members of the media. China as a country wants to see 3D printing progress to a new level and it is determined to be very central to it all.