The 26th annual edition of the seminal Wohlers Report has been released, detailing (some) ongoing expansion in additive manufacturing even during a global pandemic.
The first takeaway is ongoing growth: overall, the Wohlers team found that the global additive manufacturing industry expanded to almost $12.8 billion in 2020.
The second takeaway is a caveat: that growth was 7.5% — as compared to an average 27.4% seen over the past decade.
3D Printing and COVID-19
The obvious culprit behind suddenly-single-digit gains in a double-digit growth industry is the COVID-19 global pandemic. In a report generally focusing on market environment aspects like adoption and new real-world applications driven by enhanced technical capabilities, the 2021 Wohlers Report dedicates a good portion of its time working to understand what, why, when, where, and to what extent the pandemic impacted this industry.
As we’ve all observed over the past year, the pandemic has had effects reaching well beyond loss of life and long-term health impacts. International border closures and PPE shortages demanded fast-response, local manufacturing solutions. 3D printing, from makerspaces to pivoted operations at big AM OEMs, offered solutions for making PPE, testing equipment, and stop-gap supply chain needs.
It’s been a weird silver lining for this industry, as the promises of the technology offered real answers in a time of great need.
That, then, accounts for some of the growth. A highlighted area for gains is in desktop 3D printing equipment, for example. The report announcement also explains:
“Most established manufacturers of AM systems saw a decline in equipment sales, but many less-established companies grew in 2020. An increase in business by AM service providers supported industrywide growth. The following chart shows 7.1% growth from independent service providers worldwide, resulting in nearly $5.3 billion of revenue from this group.”
AM in 2021
Among other major areas of exploration is investment. Even as the global economy has been — not at its best, we’ll say — the additive manufacturing industry has seen ongoing investment activity. As such:
“The report includes commentary on 74 early-stage investments and 35 acquisitions and public offerings. AM startups and established companies have received substantial funding in the recent past. One example is Desktop Metal, which received $575 million as part of a merger with a special acquisitions company. After going public in December 2020, Desktop Metal’s market capitalization exceeded $7.5 billion in February 2021.”
Still, the unusual market conditions were obviously not universally good. The closure of Voodoo Manufacturing, for example, and layoffs at many other AM companies showed more of the realities of operating in difficult times.
The 2021 Wohlers Report digs into many of these factors, from pandemic response to the unknown impact of business loss due to lack of in-person events and meetings.
I’ve been reading my copy a bit at a time over the last week, and as always it’s full of information from its expert-sourced commentary. It remains at the top of my AM reading list.
Wohlers Report 2021 by the Numbers
The report stands at 375 pages this year, in line with what we’ve come to expect.
Among the new and expanded features in Wohlers Report 2021:
- 3D printing of food, medicine, and electronics
- Pricing of metals and polymers and the hidden costs of AM
- Methods of AM part inspection
- Pandemic’s impact on the AM industry
- Compilation of expert reports from 34 countries
- Tables of AM systems, software tools, service providers, and third-party materials
Support for the 2021 report came from:
- 124 service providers
- 113 manufacturers of AM machines
- 24 producers of third-party materials
- 88 co-authors and contributors from 34 countries
Data highlights include:
- 54 charts and graphs
- 104 tables
- 397 images and illustrations
- 80 pages of supplemental online content
Wohlers Report 2021 is available at $595 for a single-user (one-person) digital copy. A full-color printed/bound version is available for $695.