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3D printing and additive manufacturing industry expected to quadruple in size in four years

Wohlers Associates Inc., an independent consulting firm providing technical, market, and strategic advice on developments and trends in additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing, expects worldwide revenues in that industry to reach $12.8 billion by 2018. According to the Wohlers Report 2014, the company's annual publication on the subject, the industry grew to an estimated $3.07 billion in 2013. By 2020, Wohlers Associates forecasts revenues from all products and services in the industry to exceed $21 billion.

Wohlers Associates believes strong growth in the industry will be fueled partly by sales of personal 3D printers costing less than $5000. An even bigger factor will be the expanded use of the technology for the production of parts, especially in metal, that go into final products. "The industry is transitioning from a prototyping past to a production future," said Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at Wohlers Associates and a principal author of the report. "Opportunities for AM in production applications are orders of magnitude greater than for modeling and prototyping. The money is in manufacturing, not prototyping."

Two of the leaders in the 3D printing and additive manufacturing industry, 3D Systems and Stratasys Ltd. Inc., offer a glimpse of the way this industry is growing. Last week, 3D Systems announced it signed a lease on a new 200,000-square-foot facility in Rock Hill, SC, to increase its manufacturing and distribution capacity to meet growing demand for its 3D printers and materials.

3D Systems also opened a new 30,500-square-foot facility in Barberton, OH, to expand manufacturing capacity for 3D printer filament materials and plastic extrusion. The new facility was needed due to growing demand for the company's consumer 3D printers and materials based on its acquisition of Village Plastics last year, which brought 3D Systems advances in filament-based materials technology and expertise in large-scale materials manufacturing.

Stratasys Ltd., based in Minneapolis and Rehovot, Israel, a global provider of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions, announced last month the completion of its previously disclosed acquisition of Solid Concepts. Stratasys announced the acquisition of Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies on April 2, 2014, and will combine Solid Concepts and Harvest Technologies with RedEye, its existing digital manufacturing service business, to establish one additive manufacturing services business unit.

"We look forward to enhancing our customer offering with the completion of this transaction," said David Reis, CEO of Stratasys. "With Solid Concepts' deep knowledge of manufacturing and vertical focus, such as medical and aerospace, Stratasys will be even better positioned to meet our customers' evolving additive manufacturing requirements. We are delighted to welcome the talented employees of Solid Concepts to the Stratasys family and look forward to completing the acquisition of Harvest in order to form a leading strategic platform to better meet customer needs."

Stratasys had anticipated completing the acquisition of Harvest Technologies by the end of July but no announcement has been made to date.

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