The U.S. leads the world with the largest installed base of additive manufacturing users, but international competition is gaining. So says Wohlers Associates, an independent consulting firm that provides analysis and advice on new developments and trends in rapid product development and additive manufacturing.
Its annual analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing worldwide reveals trends that suggest the U.S. might be losing its competitive advantage in the AM industry.
According Wohlers Report 2013, 38% of all industrial AM installations are in the U.S. Japan is second with 9.7%, followed by Germany with 9.4%, and China with 8.7%. Sixteen companies in Europe, seven in China, five in the U.S., and two in Japan now manufacture and sell professional-grade, industrial additive manufacturing systems. "This is a dramatic change from a decade ago, when the mix was ten in the U.S., seven in Europe, seven in Japan, and three in China," said Tim Caffrey, principal author of the new report and associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.
To maintain a competitive advantage, the White House launched the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) in 2012 with the support of agencies including the Department of Defense. The initiative seeks to accelerate the position of the U.S. in the development and use of AM technology. "It will not be easy, given what organizations in China and other regions of the world have planned," explained Terry Wohlers, principal author of the report and president of Wohlers Associates. "China, Singapore, South Africa, and many countries in Europe have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in AM development and commercialization over the next few years."
According to Wohlers Report 2013, revenues from all additive manufacturing products and services worldwide were about $2.2 billion in 2012. This is up nearly 29% (CAGR) from 2011. An estimated 28% of the $2.2 billion is tied to the production of parts for final products, rather than models, prototypes, patterns, and other types of parts.