Design Engineering

Report: U.S. may lose competitive 3D printing advantage

By Design Engineering Staff   


U.S. leads the world with the largest installed base of additive manufacturing users, international competition gaining.

According to the 2013 Wohlers Report, an annual analysis of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing industry, the U.S. may be losing its competitive advantage in the AM industry. Compiled by Wohlers Associates, Inc., the report states that 38 percent of all industrial AM installations are in the U.S. Japan is second with 9.7 percent, followed by Germany with 9.4 percent, and China with 8.7 percent. 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, a principal author of the report and associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

To maintain a competitive advantage, the White House launched the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII) last year with the support of several agencies, including the Department of Defense. This 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, a 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.


Wohlers Associates’ advice to key leaders in the U.S. is to focus on the big picture with big goals, such as the development of metal-based powder bed fusion systems and other advanced AM system technology. Market forces and competitive pressures will take care of the smaller challenges and incremental technology improvements.

According to Wohlers Report 2013, revenues from all additive manufacturing products and services worldwide were US$2.204 billion in 2012. This is up 28.6 percent (CAGR) from 2011. An estimated 28.3 percent of the US$2.204 billion is tied to the production of parts for final products, rather than models, prototypes, patterns, and other types of parts.


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