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Wohlers Report 2022: Strong Growth in the Additive Manufacturing Industry

Published on March 16, 2022 by Madeleine P.
Wohlers Report 2022

For the 27th consecutive year, Wohlers Associates has published its annual report on the additive manufacturing industry. Wohlers Report 2022 marks the first report that has been published by Wohlers Associates since its acquisition by ASTM International late last year. As would be expected, the 425-page report provides an analysis of the current state of the AM sector worldwide, identifying key trends. Notably, the report showed significant growth and maturing in the AM sector as compared to last year, perhaps suggesting recovery from the pandemic. And at least one sign of this shown in the report is the increased consumption of polymer powders, overtaking photopolymers for the first time.

This year, the report was created thanks to the support of 260 service providers, machine manufacturers, and producers of third-party materials. And it was written as by a team of 93 co-authors and contributors from 33 countries who provided expert views and perspective. Notably, it also shows in itself growth in the industry as participation also increased compared to the previous year, wherein it was supported by 124 service providers, 113 manufacturers of AM machines, and 24 producers of third-party materials and eighty-eight co-authors and contributors. This immense scope shows why the report is considered to be one of the most trusted in the industry. Thanks to extensive research and commentary from across the globe, it is able to give an accurate overview of the state of the 3D printing sector and the trends that have dominated the past year.

A breakdown of the report (photo credits: Wohlers Associates)

Trends in Additive Manufacturing in Wohlers Report 2022

One of the most interesting trends that will be highlighted in the report is the immense growth in the AM industry over the course of 2021. According to the press release, research for the report showed AM industry growth of 19.5% in 2021. This is of course a significant increase from the previous year which showed only a 7.5% increase due to the impact of the pandemic, though it still has not quite yet reached pre-covid levels, the 10 year average before 2020 was 27.4% growth. However it is still a significant milestone. As Terry Wohlers, head of advisory services and market intelligence at Wohlers Associates, explained, “As expected, the industry has returned to a period of advancement and investment. This expansion cuts across aerospace, healthcare, automotive, consumer products, energy, and other sectors.”

For one, it certainly reflects a trend that we have already been seeing over the course of the year. In 2021, we saw a number of mergers and other signs of a healthy market. This will also be reflected in the report as it will include details on 147 early-stage and corporate investments and 75 mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings.  This is almost double what was found in last year’s report as Wohlers Report 2021 commented on 74 early-stage early-stage investments and 35 acquisitions and public offerings. This growth though not related directly to growth, does suggest the maturing and success of the companies, an indirect sign of a flourishing industry.

Photo Credits: Wohlers Associates

And as you might imagine, the report also identifies the fact that the industry is maturing as another key trend. For example, it notes that more and more companies are using AM for custom products and series production, which could be identified as more industrial applications for the technology. A sign of this is that polymer powders have officially overtaken photopolymers this year. As can be seen in the graph above, polymer powder consumption grew 43.4% in 2021, a significant amount, to be sold in greater quantities than photopolymers for the first time. 

Beyond these trends, there is a significant amount of other information that can be found in the report. Notably, Wohlers Associates notes that this year they have expanded sections on the role of women in 3D printing, scaling AM into production (another sign of significant industrialization of the sector), R&D development as well as workforce development and sustainability. The latter point fits with what many across the sector saw as well over the past year. As warnings about climate change increase, many in the AM community are pushing not just for further adoption of AM as it is more environmentally friendly than traditional methods, but also to make the technology itself more sustainable.

Photo Credits: 3Dnatives

Though this report certainly has a more hopeful tone than last year, it will be interesting to see whether this growth continues. If it does, we can determine that rather than the growth just consisting of expected recovery from the pandemic that in fact the AM sector is truly expanding past previous years, turning it into an increasingly mainstream technology for industrial and other needs. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more about Wohlers Report 2022, you can download it HERE.

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