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An independent review from Engineering
Volume 11, Issue 6
Wohlers Report 2002
By David Cohn
Terry Wohlers, the president of Wohlers
Associates in Fort Collins, Colorado, recently released the latest edition
of the Wohlers Report: Rapid Prototyping & Tooling State of the
Industry Annual Worldwide Progress Report. Wohlers is widely regarded
as the leading analyst and consultant covering rapid prototyping (RP) and
rapid tooling (RT), and his annual report—an extremely comprehensive
publication—is considered the definitive analysis of the RP world.
This year’s report, a 250-page study, covers
all facets of rapid prototyping, including business, product, market,
technology, and applications. Forty-nine professionals, 47 service
providers, 25 system manufacturers, and countless others assisted with its
development. The 2002 report includes many new sections and a matrix that
compares 24 methods of tooling. The softbound publication includes 25
charts and graphs, 23 tables, and 87 photographs and illustrations.
The report focuses on the many facets of rapid
prototyping and tooling, including the industries being served,
applications, revenues, unit sales, and forecasts. It also provides
current information on trends with regard to service providers, advanced
approaches to tooling, system manufacturers worldwide, RP stocks, and new
developments in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. The
report covers research and development activities, trends in CAD and the
Internet, RP materials, medical modeling, and reverse engineering. Wohlers
Report 2002 concludes with a review of the future of rapid
prototyping, where it is headed, and what to do.
Last year, more systems were installed, more
material was consumed, and more applications for the technology were
uncovered. “An almost unbelievable number of new technologies,
materials, and enhancements were under development in corporate,
university, and government laboratories around the world,” Wohlers said.
Wohlers goes on to state that all of this activity is exciting and shows
tremendous promise, but says that the rate of growth in 2001 was a
disappointment. Revenues from products and services were down
significantly and machine unit sales were flat. Unexpectedly, even the
low-cost 3D printer segment experienced a decline in unit sales.
In terms of worldwide purchases and
installations, the U.S. leads with 42.8% of the systems sold, followed by
Japan (18.7%), Germany (9.3%), and China (4.7%). In contrast to the
steadfast hold the U.S. has on system sales, however, its lead in
installations continues to decrease, since establishing a high of 48.9% in
Despite a decline in overall industry growth,
RP users worldwide produced an estimated 3.55 million models and prototype
parts in 2001. This is up 18.3% from the 3 million models produced in
2000. An estimated 2.34 million and 1.86 million parts were produced in
1999 and 1998, respectively.
One company alone has produced more than one
million parts in less than three years. Using its SLA 7000 machines, Align
Technology produces hundreds of thousands of clear plastic aligners for
straightening teeth. Since the company does not publish annual production
rates, the 2001 total of 3.55 million models does not include those
produced by Align Technology.
Wohlers Associates believes that the contrast
of growth in part production to the stagnation of system sales is in part
due to equipment and material enhancements. These improvements offer
higher throughput from the same number of systems. Other factors include
improved capacity utilization and growth in the concept-modeling segment
of the industry.
The Wohlers Report: Rapid Prototyping &
Tooling State of the Industry Annual Worldwide Progress Report is a
comprehensive and well organized publication that is useful for any
company currently using rapid prototyping and tooling equipment or
considering its use in the future, and is highly recommended.