Additive manufacturing, popularly known as three-dimensional printing, grew by 29.4 percent in 2011, to a total of market size of $1.7 billion worldwide, according to a new industry report from Wohlers Associates Inc.
Wohlers Associates said the additive manufacturing industry has grown in double digits for 15 of its 24 years. The industry declined by 9 percent in 2009, because of the recession, but then rebounded in 2010 to grow 24.1 percent, to $1.3 billion, the consulting and research firm in Fort Collins, Colo., reports.
The 287-page report details trends for additive manufacturing, building an object layer by layer, to make objects from 3-D model data.
In 2011, sales of professional-grade industrial systems, measured by units, grew by a relatively soft 5.4 percent, to 6,494 units. But sales-dollar growth was strong, since the average selling price increased last year.
Wohlers Associates said low-cost “personal” 3-D printers have enjoyed “staggering growth” of 289 percent, to 23,265 units. Most sell for about $1,000 to $2,000.
New advances in metals and design tools are fueling new businesses to do additive manufacturing, the report said. Thirteen companies in Europe now make additive manufacturing systems, and Wohlers said Europe is a hotbed of metal-based AM equipment.
Direct manufacturing — using additive manufacturing to make finished products, not just prototypes — has grown from virtually zero in 2003 to 24 percent of the industry's total revenues last year.
The report uses the terms additive manufacturing and 3-D printing interchangeably. The industry's terminology is getting some clarification, since ASTM's committee F42 on additive manufacturing technologies approved a list of AM process terms and definitions earlier this year.
The principal authors of Wohlers Report 2012 are President Terry Wohlers and Tim Caffrey, associate consultant.