The global 3D printing industry grew by 21 percent and expanded by more than $1.25 billion last year, according to the Wohlers Report 2018.
In 2016, the sector hinted at an upcoming slowdown, growing 17.4 percent, which was down from a growth rate of 25.9 percent in 2015.
The 344-page report found 135 companies around the world produced and sold industrial additive manufacturing systems — defined as machines that sell for more than $5,000 — in 2017. The number represents an increase of nearly 40 percent compared with 2016, when 97 manufacturers produced and sold additive manufacturing systems.
New manufacturers are also entering the 3D printing market, releasing machines with open material platforms, faster printing speeds and lower pricing, the report said.
The report showed a dramatic rise in metal additive manufacturing, especially. In 2017, an estimated 1,768 metal additive manufacturing systems were sold compared with 983 systems in 2016, representing an increase of nearly 80 percent.
Consulting firm Wohlers Associates Inc. in Fort Collins, Colo., said the big boost in metal additive manufacturing systems correlates with improved process monitoring and quality assurance measures. Although the firm said "more work is ahead" in a March 27 news release, an increasing number of global manufacturers are becoming aware of the benefits of using 3D printing to make metal parts.
Wohlers Report 2018 includes data and analysis from 76 co-authors and 32 countries. More than 160 pages of supplemental online information is available to buyers of the report. The firm has published its series of annual reports on additive manufacturing for 23 years.