Wohlers Associates’ annual industry report suggests declining U.S. dominance in 3D printing industry
Global 3D printing industry revenue from additive manufacturing products and services were $2.2 billion last year, up 28.6 percent over 2011, according to an annual industry report by consulting group Wohlers Associates.
Additive manufacturing machines, more commonly known as 3D printers, is the process of joining plastic, metal, and composite materials based on 3D model data, usually layer upon layer to build physical models, prototypes, patterns, tooling components, and production parts.
Last year’s report by Wohler’s estimated 2011 growth of the global 3D printing industry to be 29.4 percent, and 26.4 percent over its 24-year history. Global sales of AM products and services in the 3D printing market are expected to reach $3.7 billion by 2015 and $6.5 billion by 2019, Wohler’s said in its 2012 report.
The 2013 report reveals an estimated 28 percent of global AM industry sales is tied to the production of parts for final products, rather than models, prototypes, patterns, and other types of parts, the report said.
Industrial additive manufacturing installations by country:
- United States: 38 percent
- Japan: 9.7 percent
- Germany: 9.4 percent
- China: 8.7 percent
U.S. domination of AM global market fading?
The report also suggests the United States may be losing its competitive advantage in the AM industry.
Ten years ago, America dominated the global market for manufacturing and selling professional-grade, industrial additive manufacturing systems. At the time, the U.S. industry had 10 companies representing its industry compared to just seven in Europe, seven in Japan and three in China, according to the report.
Today, there are 16 companies in Europe, seven in China, five in the United States, and two in Japan, “a dramatic change,” said Wohlers’ Tim Caffrey, a lead author of the report.
To maintain a competitive advantage and boost the development and use of AM technology, especially in regard to the nation’s defense, the Obama administration launched the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) last year.
In his State of the Union address in January, Obama said: “Last year, we created our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio. A once-shuttered warehouse is now a state-of-the art lab where new workers are mastering the 3D printing that has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
But Terry Wohlers, also a lead author of the report and president of the Colorado-based company, believes with global competition heating up, America’s AM industry has its work cut out for it.
“It will not be easy, given what organizations in China and other regions of the world have planned,” he said, citing “hundreds of millions of dollars” worth of investments in AM development and commercialization from China, Singapore, South Africa, and many EU countries over the next few years.
The Wohlers report advises leaders in the American AM industry to focus on the “big picture with big goals.” One example is the development of metal-based powder bed fusion systems and other advanced AM system technology.
“Market forces and competitive pressures will take care of the smaller challenges and incremental technology improvements,” the report said.