Earlier this year, ENGINEERING.com had the opportunity to review Wohlers Report 2017. To provide further insight into the report, here we’ve published an excerpt from the report.
The AM industry grew by 17.4% in worldwide revenues in 2016, down from 25.9% the year before. Much of the downturn came from declines by the two largest system manufacturers in the business. Together, they represent $1.31 billion (21.7%) of the $6.063 billion AM industry. If these two companies were excluded from the analysis, the industry would have grown by 24.9%.
Fifty-one percent of the service providers surveyed by Wohlers Associates provide parts in polymer materials only, while 19.8% provide metal parts only. The remaining 29.2% offer both metal and polymer part-building services, as shown in the following chart. This is the first year to report these statistics, so it will be interesting to see how they change in the future as metal AM increases in popularity.
Additive manufacturing is making significant progress toward becoming a mainstream option for series production. It is free of needing tools (e.g., molds and dies) and is capable of producing very complex shapes and geometric features. The production of final parts using AM facilitates small batch sizes, custom parts, lightweight structures, complex internal features, and the consolidation of many parts into one.
As AM competitiveness improves, it will continue to penetrate an increasing number of markets. It is too early to know if AM will lead to a new industrial revolution, but some indicators suggest that it might. One of the key signs is the removal of many barriers to entering the product development and manufacturing business. AM offers a reduction of transaction costs and the possibility of decentralization of some types of production. Another sign is an increase in custom product development.
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