The market for additive fabrication -- also known as rapid manufacturing -- consisting of all products and services globally, grew 16 percent in 2007, up from an estimated $983.7 million generated in 2006. Reaching the $1 billion mark is a first for this industry, Terry Wohlers of Wohlers Associates said (www. wohlersassociates.com) in the latest edition of Wohlers Report 2008, a 240-page global study that focuses on the advances in additive fabrication worldwide.
Additive fabrication (AF) significantly reduces labor costs, making it much easier for organizations in the West to compete with companies in countries where labor rates are low. This will become especially important companies apply AF technology to the manufacture of products.
Increasingly, companies are using AF systems for custom and replacement part manufacturing, special edition products, short-run production, and even series production. They are also being used to produce manufacturing aids such as jigs, fixtures, and assembly guides, which are used to make products.
The industry is expected to grow substantially over the next several years, reaching annual sales of AF products and services of an estimated $2.3 billion worldwide by 2012. Unit sales of AF equipment are expected to reach 12,000 systems for the year 2012, Wohlers said. By 2015, the company believes the industry will grow to an estimated $3.5 billion for the year, with unit sales reaching 20,000 systems.