For the last few decades, American companies have dominated and advanced the field of additive manufacturing to its current state. However, in a recent report from industry analyst Terry Wolhers, America’s dominance in additive manufacturing could be waning.
In preparation for Wohlers Associates annual Wohlers Report,the analysis firm hase released some data that might surprise a few people. Of all the manufacturers of professional grade 3D printers out there, 16 of them are from Europe, 7 are located in China, 5 call the US home and 2 reside in Japan. Compare that with data from a decade ago when 10 companies found there base in the US while Europe and Japan both had 7 companies and China rounded out the group with 3, and you’re beginning to see a change in the additive manufacturing landscape.
Wohlers’ data also raises concerns about the U.S.’s ability to maintain an advantage on the cutting edge of 3D printing technology stating, “What’s more, all of the metal powder bed fusion systems are manufactured outside the U.S. Seven manufacturers of these systems are in Europe and two are in China. Together, China, Singapore, many countries in Europe, and even South Africa, have committed hundreds of millions of dollars in AM development and commercialization over the next few years.”
While the US has committed some funding to AM research through the guise of the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), the effort pales in comparison to the government sponsored research happening in other countries.
Wohler’s recommendation to “key leaders in the US” 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.”
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