Industry Briefing from Wohlers Associates

Service Providers

Service providers, also referred to as service bureaus, offer part building services to design and manufacturing organizations as an outsourced service. These services typically include parts made by additive manufacturing as well as secondary services such as design, CAD, reverse engineering, cast urethane parts, custom painting, CNC, metal castings, and injection molding.

For many years, Wohlers Associates has sought input from service providers to help determine the state of the industry. This year, 70 companies in 19 countries participated in a formal survey. Thirty-seven are from the U.S., six from Germany, four from India, three from Belgium and the UK, two each from Australia, Italy, and Turkey, and one each from Brazil, Canada, China, Greece, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand.

Most of the service providers offer services other than additive manufacturing. The most popular are design and CAD services, which are offered by 75% of those surveyed. Urethane casting, sometimes referred to as vacuum casting, is the second most popular and offered by 68.8% of the respondents. Engineering services, at 59.4%, is third. Other popular services include injection mold tooling (45.3%), 3D scanning/reverse engineering (43.8%), and injection molding (40.6%). Only 26.6% of the respondents offer metal casting.

The chart at shows the percentage of survey respondents that added additive manufacturing systems to their operations. Nearly 40% added new machines in 2010, compared to less than 22% the year before. In 2009, companies showed that they neither had the cash to invest in additional systems nor the confidence that business would be there if they did. Several companies sold off unused capacity to lower overhead and provide additional working capital. With an improving economy and increasing product development and manufacturing, the situation changed in 2010.

Note: The previous information was taken from Wohlers Report 2011, a 270-page global study focusing on the advances in additive manufacturing and 3D printing worldwide. A detailed overview of the report, as well as additional information on the market and industry, are available at:

Wohlers Talk: Universities Create Wealth

Someone once said that our university system is the envy of the world. I don’t know whether this is true, but I do know that we have many special institutions of higher education within our borders. One is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an organization that has produced more than I would have ever thought.

MIT graduates have founded 25,800 companies, according to the January 22, 2011 issue of The Economist. These companies employ 3.3 million people and generate annual sales of $3 trillion, according to the article. This is more than three times the gross domestic product (GDP) of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and many other countries.

Another article in the same issue of The Economist stated that 41% of millionaires worldwide live in the U.S. This is an extraordinary percentage when considering the world population. The article went on to say that the world’s most wealthy are entrepreneurs that started a business.

Our university system has undoubtedly contributed greatly to entrepreneurism, which has led to personal and national wealth. If one university can do what it has done—albeit MIT—imagine what the more than 4,800 colleges and universities spread across the U.S. are achieving. Regardless of what you might hear from others, supporting higher education is a wise investment..

Note: Wohlers Talk is a blog that offers views, perspective, and commentary on rapid product development and a wide range of other topics. Nearly 230 commentaries have been published. To view them, visit:

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