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.