The Wohlers Report, often lauded as the “AM Bible,” found that the 3D printing industry grew 7.5 percent in 2020. While the growth is significantly lower than the industry’s approximately 25 percent average over the last ten years, it’s hopeful news in the gloom of the pandemic.
Wohlers released their latest report on March 16th. The report, compiled with co-authors from 34 countries, marks their 26th year of reporting on the industry. This makes for an impressive pedigree in a young industry, and their testimonials page is filled with accolades.
Citron Research says, “More than just the bible of 3D printing, it is the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. We can’t think of another industry where a single source has such a compelling handle on the entire scope of industry trends.”
This year’s 375-page report focused on how COVID-19 had impacted the printing industry. The writers found that, despite the pandemic, there had still been an industry expansion of 7.5 percent. That growth brought the worldwide AM market to almost $12.8 billion by the end of 2020.
Not all of the news was good. Wohlers found that the industry’s growth had lagged behind the last ten years’ average of 27.4 percent more established manufacturers had taken a serious hit in equipment sales. Mid-2020 saw big players Stratasys and 3D Systems suffer a second-quarter slump, with both companies announcing losses of around 30 million due to negative impacts on their customers.
Still, growth for small companies and manufacturers drove up the sector as a whole, and a 7.1% growth from independent service providers meant nearly $5.3 billion in total revenue. Part of this growth was driven by breaks in the supply chain, as Covid outbreaks in warehouses and closed borders meant that fewer things could be shipped from further away. At the same time, the desperate need for supplies like testing swabs and PPE meant that innovative small print companies could step in to make a difference. Finally, some bored members of the public took the time to experiment with 3D printing as they had with baking or gardening: in March and April 2020, online retailer AliExpress sold a desktop printer once every eight seconds.
Wohlers uses the example of unicorn-turned-publicly-traded company Desktop Metal. Around the same time Stratasys and 3D Systems were struggling, Desktop Metal announced that they were going public, after a merger with Trine Acquisition Corp that netted them $575 million in new funds. Before the acquisition, they had been growing “aggressively,” over previous years’ high industry average.
Apart from COVID’s impact on the market, this year’s report also covers the printing of food, medicine, and electronics, the hidden costs of 3D printing, and different methods of part inspection.
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