[rp-ml] Briefing from Wohlers Associates

From: Terry Wohlers <tw_at_wohlersassociates.com>
Date: Thu Jun 08 2006 - 03:53:25 EEST

Solid Growth in Additive Fabrication

The market for additive fabrication (also known as rapid prototyping) grew 14.6% to an estimated $808.5 million in 2005, up from $705.2 million in 2004. Growth was 33.3% and 9.2% in 2004 and 2003, respectively. These totals include all products and services for additive fabrication worldwide.

The industry has remained solid after a spectacular 2004. Systems, materials, and services experienced double-digit growth in 2005, although growth was not as strong as the previous year. Interest in the less expensive 3D printer-class of machine continues to drive demand in the 70 countries in which additive systems were sold last year. Revenues generated by 3D printer sales were up 35.2% in 2005, making 3D printers the fastest growing segment of the industry.

The services segment of the industry remains healthy. In 2003, service providers experienced a moderate turnaround. In 2004, this segment mounted a very impressive comeback. Results from 2005 show that the companies in the services business have positioned themselves for sustained growth, which was quite uncertain prior to 2003.

The previous information was taken from Wohlers Report 2006, 250-page global market study. The new publication covers all facets of the industry, including business, product, market, technology, research, and application. Forty-seven co-authors, 53 service providers, 27 system manufacturers, and many others assisted with its development. To support the review and analysis, the softbound publication includes 26 charts and graphs, 44 tables, 131 photographs and illustrations, and seven appendices.

A detailed overview of the report, as well as additional information on the market and industry, are available at http://wohlersassociates.com.


Wohlers Talk: Rapid Manufacturing

I completed a project recently that required me to find many examples of rapid manufacturing. I found more than 50. It would have been difficult to find a dozen two years ago.

Rapid manufacturing is the direct production of finished goods using an additive fabrication process. An example is the manufacturing of custom in-the-ear hearing aids that are sold to customers. A broader definition is the indirect production of finished goods using an additive process. An example is the production of guides or hand tools that are used to aid in the assembly of a product. BMW and Jaguar are using fused deposition modeling and laser sintering, respectively, to produce assembly aids.

Rapid manufacturing, in both its direct and indirect forms, eliminates the need for tooling such as molds and dies. Tooling is usually a necessary evil in manufacturing, but the many examples that I've found prove that it can be eliminated. In the future, this elimination of tooling-for certain types of parts-will open up the possibility of manufacturing products that before were not feasible due to time, cost, and risk.

In my search for industrial examples of rapid manufacturing, I began to realize that most companies are not discussing how they are using additive processes to manufacture parts. They are keeping it a tightly held secret because of the strategic edge that it could-and in some cases, is already having-at their organizations.

My guess is that for every example that I've found, there are another 5-10 examples that we will never hear about. This means that there could easily be as many as 300 to more than 500 cases in which companies have applied the concept of rapid manufacturing. That's exciting, especially when you consider that it's in its infancy.

Note: Wohlers Talk is a blog that offers views, perspective, and commentary related to rapid product development and other topics of interest. Ninety-three commentaries have been published since February 2003. To view them, visit http://wohlersassociates.com and click "Wohlers Talk."


EuroMold 2006. Plans are underway for the eighth annual international conference at EuroMold. Each year, the conference covers the latest trends and what the future holds in rapid product development and additive fabrication. This year's conference is scheduled for Friday, December 1, so mark your calendar. Wohlers Associates organizes the topics and speakers and chairs the event. The exposition, which draws more than 55,000 people, is November 29 through December 2. Go to http://www.euromold.com to learn more about EuroMold. Check back for details on this special one-day conference.
Received on Thu Jun 08 02:59:04 2006

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