Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Rapid Prototyping Journal, Volume 21, Issue 4
In April 2015, Wohlers Associates celebrated its 20th anniversary of its Wohlers Report. It is the undisputed leading “state of the industry” report on the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. It is often cited in Rapid Prototyping Journal articles as the source for key statistics and an indication of industry trends. I was first asked to contribute information to the report in 2001 and have contributed in some form or other several times since that date. This year, I was asked to significantly increase my involvement in the compilation of the report and had the pleasure of working alongside the principal authors, Tim Caffrey and Terry Wohlers, from January to April. During this time, I was given new insight into how the report is brought together using inputs from 78 contributors from around the world. I was mostly dealing with the individual country reports, and it was extremely encouraging to see how AM is making rapid progress worldwide. This was also the first time I had been so closely involved with the editing process of a technical report, and it was quite a learning curve for me. The style of English needed is quite different from that used in academic journals, and, of course, I had to learn to write American! It took several mental “biting my tongue” moments before I finally felt comfortable when using “toward” instead of “towards” and “color” instead of “colour”. I was also amazed at how a piece of writing can be refined over and over again, as several editors bring their expertise to bear. Overall, it was an invaluable experience and one that I hope I can benefit from again in the future.
Turning to the content of Wohlers Report 2015, once again it reveals a very positive year for the AM community. In 2014, the turnover of the AM products and services industry (including both industrial systems and desktop three-dimensional [3D] printers) grew by 35.2 per cent to $4.103 billion. This was the strongest growth seen in 18 years. In particular, there has been substantial growth in metal AM with 543 machines sold in 2014 compared to 351 in 2013. Another significant trend is the continued growth in sales of desktop 3D printers (AM systems selling for less than $5.000). Revenues from sales of these machines have almost doubled since 2013 and were valued at $173.5 million in 2014, now 13.4 per cent of the revenue from all AM machines sales. Exciting developments include ceramic materials, hybrid milling/AM systems and 3D-printed electronics. AM has entered space with the installation of a specially design 3D printer on board the International Space Station. In 2014, 131 “Maker Faires” attracted large crowd on several continents, and even more events are planned for 2015. Large-scale manufacturers such as HP, Roland and Ricoh have announced or introduced their own 3D printers. Wohlers Report 2015 discusses these and other developments and indicates that the AM industry is entering “a new era” made possible by a number of factors coming together. They include the expiration of key patents, new investment, increasing demand and unprecedented publicity. It is certainly an interesting time to be part of the AM community, as we stand at the threshold of an exciting future.
R. Ian Campbell