3D Printers

AMFG Report Provides Insight into 3D Printing Service Bureau Market

29 Jul, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

Based on an industry-wide survey of additive manufacturing service bureaus, the report describes a highly competitive, fast-growing market that’s providing customers with more choices of potential manufacturing suppliers.

AMFG, a provider of workflow software for additive manufacturing (AM), has released a free 36-page report on the state of the AM service provider market. The report is based on survey responses collected from more than 50 independent service bureaus offering AM services. According to AMFG, service bureaus are one of the fastest-growing segments of the 3D printing industry.

A Fast-Growing Industry — with More Competition

According to the report, the number of independent service bureaus is growing, and some hardware manufacturers are offering services as part of their business model. The AMFG report cites the 2018 edition of the annual Wohlers Report, noting that independent service providers generated an estimated $2.955 billion in revenue worldwide in 2017, up 36% from the $2.173 billion reported for 2016. And things should keep looking up — figures from market research firm IDC indicate that spending on 3D printing services will reach $4.8 billion in 2022.

Consumer goods and automotive are top drivers of demand in the industry. Chart source: AMFG.

Christina Perla, co-founder and CEO of the New York–based Makelab service bureau, observed in the report that the falling cost of desktop machines is lowering the barrier for entry for new businesses, contributing to increasing competition. “There are a lot of companies who entered the industry as makers who love the technology and the process, which is how my business partner and I came into it,” she says. “But I think that after some time, you’ll need to evolve into more of a business mindset, where you're looking at how to make your business sustainable and scalable.”

Technologies on Offer

Fused filament fabrication (FFF)/fused deposition modeling (FDM) was the technology most commonly offered by service providers (70%), followed closely by stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS). Metal technologies were a distant fourth at 39%. FFF/FDM was also the biggest source of revenue for 40% of respondents.

Fused filament fabrication/fused deposition modeling is the most commonly offered technology, according to the survey. Chart source: AMFG.

“When it comes to the 3D printing technologies driving business revenue, the results are clear: polymer 3D printing continues to dominate the services market in 2019. That said, as the technology continues to mature, we expect revenues from metal 3D printing to increase,” the report states.

A Key Challenge

“The industry started out mainly with prototyping and iterative design applications,” Perla said. “Now the range of applications has broadened, and the industry is constantly growing. For example, a lot of our customers come to us wanting to prototype their newest IoT innovations and product and hardware designs.”

The knowledge of customers, however, may not be keeping pace with that constant growth. “Our research has found that the lack of 3D printing knowledge is one of the biggest challenges for service providers today,” said Victoria Akinsowon, AMFG’s senior marketing manager and author of the report, in an AMFG release. “Service providers are finding that a significant proportion of their customers still only have a vague understanding of the capabilities and limitations of 3D printing technologies.”


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