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Additive Expansion to Continue Amid Challenges, Wohlers Says

Bill Koenig
By Bill Koenig Senior Editor, SME Media

CHICAGO -- Additive manufacturing will continue to expand while coping with various challenges, industry consultant Terry Wohlers said today at RAPID + TCT 2021.

Additive currently is about a $12.8 billion industry, or about 0.1 percent of the global manufacturing economy, according to Wohlers Associates. The consulting company expects that to increase to about $17.7 billion next year and $115.2 billion in 2030.

Sectors contributing to additive’s growth include medical devices and aerospace, he said. The auto industry holds promise for additive as vehicle manufacturers continue to explore using 3D printing. “Eventually, automotive will be on the growth track,” Wohlers said.

At the time, “there’s a growing list” of challenges and obstacles, said Wohlers, the principal consultant and president of Wohlers Associates. The firm produces an annual report that is closely watched in the additive manufacturing industry.

Typically in manufacturing, product prices decline as production increases.

With additive, “Volumes are going up but the prices are not going down fast enough,” the consultant said.

Challenges also include the need for more designing for additive manufacturing, according to Wohlers. “It’s still a work in progress,” he said.

Additive also needs to improve reliability of 3D printed parts. “We absolutely have to get there,” Wohlers said.

The industry faces the prospect of consolidation. Boston-based Desktop Metal, for example, has announced acquisitions, including a pending deal with ExOne Co. announced in August.

Consolidation “is inevitable,” Wohlers said.

Acquiring companies “can be challenging,” he added. “It’s not always a slam dunk.”

Wohlers was the keynote speaker for the second day of RAPID + TCT being held at McCormick Place in Chicago.

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