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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Wohlers Report 2015 and the State of the 3D Printing Industry

May 28th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

An independent consulting firm and industry source that we know quite well, Wohlers Associates, Inc., recently released the Wohlers Report 2015, the company’s annual detailed analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide. According to the Report, in 2014, interest in 3D printing reached an unprecedented level and exceeded the $4 billion milestone. The phenomenal attention to AM began in 2012, was sudden, and has continued to proliferate since then.

Wohlers Associates is widely recognized as the leading consulting firm and foremost authority on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. This annual publication has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. Over the 20 years of its publication, many have referred to the report as the “bible” of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably by the company (and industry).

Wohlers Report 2015
As it has from the beginning, Wohlers Report 2015 covers virtually every aspect of additive manufacturing, including its history, applications, underlying technologies, processes, manufacturers, and materials. It documents significant developments that have occurred in the past year, R&D and collaboration activities in government, academia, industry, and summarizes the worldwide state of the industry. This edition marks the Report’s 20th consecutive year of publication

2015 wohlers Report Cover

The market for additive manufacturing, consisting of all AM products and services worldwide, grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.2% to $4.1 billion in 2014, according to Wohlers Report 2015. The industry expanded by more than $1 billion in 2014, with 49 manufacturers producing and selling industrial-grade AM machines. The CAGR over the past three years (2012–2014) was 33.8%.

Wohlers Associates believes the industry will continue strong growth over the next several years. It will be fueled by sales of under $5,000 “personal” 3D 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. He added, “What’s most exciting is that we have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible.”

Wohlers Associates reports that growth occurred in all segments of the diverse industry, including the low-cost “desktop” 3D printer segment. The use of industrial metal AM systems for demanding production applications in the aerospace and medical markets also grew strongly. The report thoroughly documents the increasingly rich range of technologies, markets, and business models that are emerging within the industry.

“The first Wohlers Report was published in April 1996,” said Terry Wohlers, principal consultant and president of Wohlers Associates. “It was 40 pages in length and represented the first-ever published analysis of the industry worldwide. The AM industry represented a mere $295 million in 1995. A lot has changed in 20 years, and we’ve worked hard to document this change. I am proud to say that no other publication comes close to matching the depth and breadth of data and market analysis that is found in our annual report.”

Wohlers Report 2015 is an information-rich 314 pages, and includes 39 charts and graphs, 63 tables, and 279 images and illustrations. The report, which sells for US$495, was developed with support from 87 service providers, 40 system manufacturers, and the valuable contributions of 78 co-authors in 31 countries. Wohlers Associates is fortunate to have developed the largest network of contacts in the industry. This access and trust has resulted in a report that offers an unparalleled window into AM and 3D printing.

I’ve known Terry Wohlers and Tim Caffrey for several years, and in my experience, Wohlers Associates continues to be the voice of reality of the AM and 3D printing industries. I highly recommend the Wohlers Repor 2015 for its breadth, depth, and insights as the source of accurate and objective information about the world of AM that continues to evolve.

For more information: Wohlers Report 2015

State of the AM Industry Keynote at RAPID 2015
As he has for as long as I can remember, Terry Wohlers gave the keynote speech on the last day of RAPID 2015 on the overall state of the AM industry.

He said that the value of all goods and services sold in the AM industry were about $4.1 billion in 2014 – a number that has quadrupled in the past 5 years.

4RAPID 012-L

Terry Wohlers Keynote at Rapid 2015 (Photo courtesy of SME)

Sales of desktop machines (those selling for less than $5,000) topped ~140,000 in 2014; while sales of industrial machines (those selling for more than $5,000) were ~12,800. FDM clones were a big part of the growth, especially in desktop 3D printing, with what Wohlers estimates to be 300+ brands currently available on the market.

Wohlers said that one of the big things to watch in the near future will be HP’s multi-jet fusion 3D printer that prints at a very fast rate with thermal inkjet arrays.

He said that aerospace is a big AM industry driver, especially for metals. Metals may become so popular that, according to Wohlers, there may be a supply chain deficiency with supply possibly not able to keep up with demand for metal machines and raw material metal powder. Despite this potential shortage, Airbus has plans on producing 30 tons of AM metal parts monthly by 2018. Airbus has also completed 120 AM projects, and currently has 35 full time employees working on AM (up from 20 in 2014).

In closing, Wohlers said that AM is finally getting the recognition, respect, and investment it deserves. He expects future AM growth to be quadrupling again to around $21 billion in five years, owing largely to greater demand for customized products and the ability to produce parts for finished/final products. Phenomenal potential with phenomenal growth!

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