Annual Report Puts RP Industry Under the Microscope

A worldwide progress report on the rapid prototyping, tooling, and manufacturing industry reveals areas of growth and opportunity, as well as market segments that are experiencing disappointing results. The Wohlers Report 2003 by Wohlers Associates Inc. reflects an industry poised for growth in both technologies and applications, thanks to its emphasis on research and devlopment. The report covers all facets of the industry, including business, product, market, technology, and applications.

“3D printing was a bright spot in 2002,” says Terry Wohlers, the primary author of the report and president of Wohlers Associates. “However, there was a sharp contrast between the sales of 3D printers and conventional rapid prototyping systems.

“A staggering number of R&D; projects are underway around the world, and much of this work is turning into patents and products,” Wohlers adds.

Organizations are now extending the application of RP technology to the production of finished goods. Some believe this practice, termed rapid manufacturing, will rapidly grow and ultimately overshadow the rapid prototyping and rapid tooling markets. The report includes a new section on the opportunities, applications, and benefits of rapid manufacturing, as well as the associated obstacles and considerations.

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