3D Printing Markets Analysis

Terry Wohlers: “The Industry Nearly Quadrupled over the Past Five Years”

Terry Wohlers

If you are looking for an analysis on the 3D printing industry, you’ll find Terry Wohlers on the first ranks of any Google search. Terry Wohlers is an industry consultant and analyst of Wohlers Associates, Inc. in Fort Collins, Colorado. He has been examining the 3D printing market since 1987 – the decade 3D printing started. His consulting firm publishes the Wohlers Report, an annual worldwide progress report that provides a review and analysis of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Terry Wohlers also co-hosts the annual 3D printing conference at Euromold. All3DP talked to him in advance of the event.

He’s watching the 3D printing market since 1987: Terry Wohlers
Analyzing the 3D printing market since 1987: Terry Wohlers (image: Wohlers Associates)

Q: In a nutshell, what‘s the current state of the 3D printing industry now?

A: Growth and investment are strong. The industry grew by 35.2% last year, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2015. Also, the industry nearly quadrupled in size over the past five years. Meanwhile, we are seeing unprecedented investment from nearly all types of organizations around the world. It is a very interesting and exciting time to be a part of this industry.

Q: Where do you see fields of growth?

A: We anticipate the strongest growth in the use of 3D printing for the actual manufacture of parts. In the short term, the aerospace, medical, and dental segments will be among those to adopt it for manufacturing. Already, countless companies in these segments are using it for the manufacture of complex and expensive parts. Also, some consumer segments, such as jewelry, art, and home and personal accessories, are embracing the technology for the manufacture of products, some of which are high-end in quality and price.

Q: What’s your take on the consumer market? Will it evolve through home printing or more through 3D printing services? 

A: The consumer market will consist mostly of individuals purchasing 3D-printed parts and products on-line and in shops and stores. The idea of general-purpose home printing will be the exception and not the rule. In the future, most low-cost, desktop 3D printers will go to companies of all sizes, educational institutions, and community maker labs. This trend is already under way.

Q: Over the last decade, material science and metal printing evolved rapidly. Will we see trickling these advancements to the consumer market?

A: Metal 3D printing will reach the consumer market, allowing individuals to purchase jewelry, sculptures, and other types of products.

Wohlers Report
The Wohlers Report offers the most in-depth view of the 3D printing industry since decades. (image: Wohlers Associates)

Q: Where is the real money: in prototyping or manufacturing with 3D printing?

A: The money is in manufacturing. The ratio between the quantity of prototypes produced compared to the quantity of manufactured parts can be 1 to 1,000, and even 1 to 10,000. The actual ratio depends on the industry, company, and specific product.

Q: What‘s the most exciting thing for you in 3D printing right now?

A: What’s most exciting to us is the interest among major corporations and brands, coupled with the investment that’s underway. We have not seen anything like it in the 27-year history of 3D printing.

Q: What do you expect from Euromold this year?

A: It will continue its tradition of being a key place where business is conducted among important people and organizations from around the world. We are excited to be a part of the conference, which has been expanded to three full days, with the support of USA-based SME. On the first day, many plan to attend the 17th annual Wohlers conference, which features experts from Australia, Belgium, China, India, Japan, Korea, South Africa, Spain, and the USA.