3D printing/additive manufacturing market boom continues

Two new reports out on 3D printing/additive manufacturing reveals some amazing growth rates for that industry. The newly released Wohlers Report 2014 shows that the market for 3D printing, consisting of all products and services worldwide, grew to $3.07 billion in 2013. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.9% is the highest in 17 years. The growth of worldwide revenues over the past 26 years has averaged 27%. The CAGR for the past three years (2011-2013) was 32.3%, according to the Wohlers Report.

Wohlers Associates believes the industry will continue strong growth over the next several years, fueled by sales of under $5,000 "personal" printers, as well as the expanded use of the technology for the production of parts, especially metal, that go into final products. "The industry is experiencing change that we have not seen in 20+ years of tracking it," stated Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at the company and one of two principal authors of the new report. "What's most exciting is that we have barely scratched the surface of what's possible."

PlasticsToday asked Terry Wohlers about the "most amazing technology" that he's seen over the past 20 years of covering this industry. "Systems that are capable of producing metal parts for jet engines and NASA rockets," he replied. And to the question of what he believes will be the next big thing: "Parts that are better than those produced using conventional methods of manufacturing," Wohlers said.

Wohlers Report 2014 is a comprehensive study that covers all aspects of 3D printing, including its history, applications, processes, materials, and manufacturers. It covers developments in R&D, investment, collaborative activities in government, academia, and industry, and summarizes the state of the industry from around the world. The 276-page annual study is filled with up-to-date and practical information that includes 35 charts and graphs, 60 tables, and 248 images and illustrations.

The report, which sells for $495, was created with support from 82 service providers, 29 system manufacturers, and the valuable contributions of 70 co-authors in 24 countries.

Lux Research 3D printing market report

A new report from Lux Research also shows excellent growth in the 3D printing market driven by growth in diverse industries including aerospace, medical, automotive, consumer products, architecture and electronics. The total 3D printing market will nearly quadruple to $12 billion in 2025, according to Lux Research.

According to Lux's model, printers alone will be worth $3.2 billion, while $2 billion will represent formulated materials; $7 billion will come from the value of parts produced. "Consumer uses of 3D printing attract most of the headlines, but industrial uses, from molds and tooling to actual production parts, are quietly having the greatest impace," said Anthony Vicari, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report, How 3D Printing Adds Up: Emerging Materials, Processes, Applications, and Business Models.

"However, the field is still just getting started," he added. "Advances in processing and printable materials technology are still necessary for future growth."

Lux Research noted that the "razor/blade model is a hurdle," with 3D printer companies often selling formulated materials at a steep mark-up - 10 times to 100 times. This approach was tolerable when companies only used 3D printers for prototyping, but it remains a major impediment to the use of 3D printing for production parts, as leaders such as 3D Systems, Stratasys, and EOS restrict third-party materials suppliers from entering the market.

Currently, four printer companies dominate the market based on technical and business scores. Those are: 3D Systems, Stratasys, EOS and Arcam, and hold a combined 31% printer market share, according to Lux Research.

Growth will be triggered by the expiration of several early patent families in 2006, which enabled the emergence of lower-cost desktop printers from companies like Makerbot, as well as consumer-facing 3D printing services like Shapeways, raising popular interest in the technology.  Lux Research predicts that an "even bigger shift is coming as patents on other key 3D printing technologies start to expire over the next three years, lowering costs for those methods and widening the range of capabilities available to users." 

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