Blog Menu

Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

AM at NATO?

April 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Note: Bob Appleton, president of RW Appleton & Company, Inc., authored the following.

Obstacles to adopting additive manufacturing (AM) in any large organization are well known. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) faces additional challenges due to the diversity of its 29-nation membership. Each has its own policies and procedures and is at a different stage of adoption.

In 2016, the NATO Allied Command Transformation unit formed an AM Community of Interest (COI) consisting of leading voices and technical experts across the alliance. Its purpose is to coordinate AM efforts among member nations and share progress. The COI is exploring potential AM use cases and examining relevant standards. It is also reviewing necessary data security measures and interoperability within NATO’s environment.

The COI has swiftly addressed NATO’s issues. First, COI members participated in the U.S. Department of Defense-sponsored AM Business Process Wargame, which explored complex business practices necessary for AM use in the military. The COI also published a report detailing current standards applicable to AM.

The COI and its members maintain high-tempo participation in AM events. Drawing on experience from the Norwegian Ministry of Defense (MOD) and the U.S. Marine Corps, the COI is exploring expeditionary logistics applications. The Marine Corps demonstrated its “ExFab,” a self-contained transportable 3D printing facility, to NATO at its meeting in October 2017. This year, the Norwegian MOD will demonstrate a similar capability.

COI members will participate in NATO meetings in Germany, Italy, and the U.S., as well as NATO exercises in Norway and Poland. A study will include member nation AM activities and a roadmap proposing the way forward for AM at NATO. The COI will study blockchain as a potential security enhancement, as well as lessons from the experiences of Estonia, the most connected nation in the world. This month, the COI will be represented at RAPID + TCT 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Wohlers Report 2018

March 27, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 05:49

Wohlers Associates, Inc. announced today the release of Wohlers Report 2018, the industry-leading global report on the state of the additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry, terms used interchangeably. Wohlers Associates has published its series of annual reports on AM for 23 consecutive years.

According to the new report, an estimated 1,768 metal AM systems were sold in 2017, compared to 983 systems in 2016, an increase of nearly 80%. This dramatic rise in metal AM system installations accompanies improved process monitoring and quality assurance measures in metal AM, although more work is ahead. Increasingly, global manufacturers are becoming aware of the benefits of producing metal parts by additive manufacturing.

Seventy-six co-authors and contributors from 32 countries shared data and expertise to form the basis of analysis provided in Wohlers Report 2018. This wealth of resources further strengthened the team at Wohlers Associates with insights into the AM industry unmatched by any other organization.

The 344-page Wohlers Report 2018 includes 36 charts and graphs, 110 tables, and 192 photographs and illustrations. It also includes more than 160 pages of supplemental online information that is available to buyers of the report. See details on the new annual state of the industry report.

AM Material Sales Growth

March 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:36

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following graph shows the 16-year material sales growth trend in additive manufacturing. In 2016, an estimated $903 million was spent on all materials for AM systems worldwide, including industrial machines and desktop 3D printers. The numbers include sales of liquid photopolymers, powders, pellets, filaments, wires, sheet materials, and all other material types used for AM.

Did sales of AM materials exceed $1 billion in 2017? Wohlers Report 2018, due to be published within weeks, will answer this question and provide details on AM materials and material sales. The number of producers of polymers, composites, metals, ceramics, and other types of materials for AM continues to expand. The names of these companies, along with other detailed information, will be disclosed in the new report.

Most Popular AM Application

February 24, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,machining — Terry Wohlers @ 11:30

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2017.

The following chart shows how organizations are using industrial additive manufacturing systems for a range of applications. The information presented in the chart came from the survey question “How do your customers use the parts built on your AM systems?” The respondents consisted of 61 manufacturers of industrial AM systems (those that sell for $5,000 or more) and 100 service providers worldwide.

The survey results show that companies use AM technology to produce functional parts more than anything else. This represents the degree of interest in AM machines and materials that produce strong and accurate parts. In the future, we expect the demand for these types of parts to increase much further, especially as companies adopt AM for production applications.

Growth in AM Patent Applications

February 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:16

Note: The following was co-authored by Ray Huff and Terry Wohlers, both of Wohlers Associates. John Hornick of Finnegan collected and assembled the data for the chart.

A key indicator of innovation in any industry is patent applications. From 1996 to 2013, the additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry experienced a moderate but steady increase in published patent applications. From 2013 to 2016, the number of applications grew by a surprising 7.7 times, as shown in the following chart (taken from Wohlers Report 2017). The green line shows published patent applications, while the blue line shows issued patents.

In recent years, several AM foundation patents have expired. As these AM technologies mature, and new players enter the market, companies are pressured to differentiate their offerings. Filing a patent can be time-consuming and costly, and it can take years for a patent to be granted. This makes the number of patent applications a good way to take the “pulse” of a particular industry. The AM industry has a strong one.

AM System Manufacturer Growth

January 27, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:39

The additive manufacturing (AM) industry continues to experience dramatic growth in the number of companies that produce industrial (above $5,000) AM systems. In 2016, the total number grew to 97 across four continents. This is up from 62 the year before, and it nearly tripled in three years. This is good news for customers because it gives them a much wider range of products to consider. Also, it offers more competition that leads to better quality and lower pricing.

The total number of AM systems manufacturers in 2017 will be published in Wohlers Report 2018 in Q2 of this year. We have reason to believe that the number of manufacturers will grow once again by a high percentage. Already, our company has identified more than 20 additional companies from around the world that are offering industrial AM systems, so stay tuned.

Venture Funding for 3D Printing

January 14, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:40

As a company, we pay attention to venture capital funding for 3D printing and additive manufacturing companies. We do not measure and compare the value of venture funding from one period to the next, although we have sensed an upswing in recent months. For example, Carbon announced a $200 million round of funding in December, and this is on top of the $220 million the company had previously secured.

In July, Desktop Metal said that it had raised an additional $115 million in venture funding. Since its founding in 2015, the company has attracted a total of $212 million. In November, Markforged stated that it had raised $30 million. A month earlier, it was published that Dutch 3D-printed optics company Luxexcel received EUR 4 million in venture capital, which came after an investment of EUR 8.5 million in Q2 2017.

Other types of investments are also underway. In September, it was announced that S$60 million (US$44.5 million) is going into an aerospace facility in Singapore for the development of new technologies, including AM. In December, GE Additive said it had invested $15 million into the company’s first European Customer Experience Center in Munich, Germany. In Q3 2017, Merck of Germany opened a EUR 20 million incubator in Israel that focuses on disruptive materials and innovative technologies that include AM.

Voestalpine is investing EUR 20 million to expand its AM metal powder production facilities in Austria and Sweden. This brings the Austrian company’s total investment in AM to EUR 50 million. Meanwhile, HeyGears, a Chinese manufacturer of wearable technology products, such as custom earphones, will invest $149 million in a 3D printing facility in Guangdong, China.

The 3D printing industry is being propelled to the next level, largely by the investment community. A strong flow of venture capital and other types of investment are finding their way into start-up companies, new products and services, and centers of excellence. With the stock market booming, coupled with corporate wealth generation, I do not see it slowing down any time soon.

The Future of 3D Printing

December 2, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 09:39

Like many, I’m intrigued by the prospects of the future. For 30 years, I have put thought into the developments and applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably. For most of this time, Wohlers Associates has focused its consulting, speaking, and publications on 3D printing technology. We are proud to have worked with 260 client organizations in 26 countries, with more in the queue.

In recent years, we have been asked to give even greater thought and consideration into what the future might hold. We believe that 3D printing will lead to far more product variety, coupled with entirely new types of products, many that are unthinkable today. Generative design and other software tools will contribute. Product inventories will shrink as companies transition toward cost-saving, digital inventories and on-demand manufacturing.

Biomimicry is a fascinating field that will inspire many to produce 3D-printed products that are lighter and stronger with enhanced performance characteristics. Our industry has barely scratched the surface of the almost endless list of possibilities. The opportunity is to learn from nature and then apply it to design for additive manufacturing. If I were to begin an advanced degree program today, it would focus in this area.

For the 13th time this year in a public setting, I will present thoughts and ideas surrounding the future of 3D printing. If you would like to be a part of the discussion, attend Inside 3D Printing at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. I speak at 9:00 am on Monday, November 4. I hope to see you there.

formnext 2017

November 18, 2017

In only its third year, formnext has quickly become the additive manufacturing event in Europe to see and to be seen. I attended last year’s formnext and shared here the impression it made. In my view, it was the most impactful additive manufacturing industry event in Europe that I had attended in my 30+ years of going to them. This week’s four-day event, held again in Frankfurt, Germany, has topped it. Three of us from Wohlers Associates were there.

With few exceptions, the most important AM companies worldwide exhibited their products and services at the Messe Frankfurt Convention Center. The exhibition filled most of two large halls. Conspicuous by its absence, one fast-growing AM system manufacturer did not exhibit, and I’m reasonably certain that it is regretting the decision.

Similar to last year, all things metal was in force at formnext. Desktop Metal, EOS, GE Additive, Renishaw, SLM Solutions, and many others showed their latest machines and parts in large, elaborate exhibits. Even HP showed parts from a metal 3D printing technology it is planning to introduce next year.

The scale of some of the new machines is striking, along with the large and complex parts coming from them. The quality of exhibits, people, and announcements at formnext signaled how far the AM industry has developed and matured in the recent past. It was great to meet so many engineers, top managers, and visitors from around the world.

Congrats to Mesago for the impressive formnext exhibition and to the TCT Group for the expertly-organized four-day conference. The formnext event grew from nothing to something very special in three short years. Other events have taken a decade or longer to reach this point and many never have. Next year’s formnext is November 13-16, again in Frankfurt, so add it to your calendar now and begin to make plans. It has become THE place in Europe to conduct business in the AM industry.

« Previous PageNext Page »