No, the Additive Manufacturing Industry Did Not Expand by Double Digits in 2020
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Big shifts, changes, and excitement have been an annual staple in the additive manufacturing industry for the past ten years. Ever since the advent of desktop and inexpensive 3D printers, the market has been the subject of intense financial interest. The shift to using what have historically been technologies for producing specialized parts and prototypes to using them for more significant serial production was underway prior to low-cost printers, which were promised could let us “make anything.” Now, almost exactly ten years later, there is a second boom in additive manufacturing from the financial community, as markets look for innovative supply change solutions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which still lingers today. In many areas of manufacturing and the global economy, the impacts of COVID are actually just now peaking.
With several notable AM companies announcing their moves to go public over the last year, and many very interesting and exciting stories of successes in implementation of additive during one of the toughest years in recent memory, the future of additive manufacturing looks brighter than ever. This positivity and expected growth follows a short period of industry stagnation, where growth levels were depressed relative to historical norms, and therefore is a welcome shift back into familiar territory. But it may be coming with some familiar side effects—mainly a proliferation of low-quality information and data regarding the opportunities at hand.
Market research coming from the global ‘research mills,’ who are notorious for web-scrape analysis on any and every technology or manufacturing trending topic, are likely to ratchet up the output now that additive technologies are back in the spotlight, especially in both the financial media and investment circles following all the recent additive SPAC deals. This creates a deluge of headlines focusing on growth percentages and revenue dollars, the projections of which are often incentivized to show eye-popping growth and stats in order to facilitate interest and sales. It’s a story as old as time in the research world, and no company is totally innocent. Even at SmarTech, one of the longest running boutique market analysis firms focusing only on additive technologies for the past eight years, we recognize that highlighting the most exciting growth-related trends is important. What differentiates our research, and what we are proud to hang our hat on, is that, as specialists, we can often pull out much deeper, more detailed and exciting insights to highlight, because, as specialists, we actually understand the industry and technologies.
And then there is this report from Hubs—previously known as “3D Hubs” and now owned by Protolabs—which believes the additive manufacturing market grew by 21 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. This report, not conducted by an analyst group but rather by a publicly traded stakeholder in the industry, gets its growth estimate not from actually tracking the market, but from averaging the reported growth projections of 2020 from other market research reports, produced largely by web-scrape research mills. You can see how this might create problematic, self-fulfilling data showing growth in 2020, when, in fact, the market likely contracted slightly.
Did the AM Market Really Grow in 2020?
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