The VDMA’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group has undertaken a member survey to understand the growth opportunities within the AM industry. The results reportedly show that two thirds of the companies that took part expect the market to recover and sales to rise in the next twenty-four months. Of the fourteen manufacturing service providers who took part in the survey, over 90% expect the situation to improve soon.
“Our current member survey shows clearly how companies in the Additive Manufacturing industry remain focused on their future opportunities despite the current difficult market environment,” stated Dr Markus Heering, Managing Director of the Additive Manufacturing Working Group (AG AM) within the VDMA.
In the first half of 2020, many of the nearly seventy companies that took part in the survey recorded declining sales. Some 56% of those surveyed reported sales declined, in some cases significantly. One fifth had to cope with a decline of more than 20%. In contrast, only every fifth company remained on a growth path in the first six months of the year.
“The weak economy resulting from the corona [COVID-19] pandemic is also affecting the business situation in Additive Manufacturing,” explained Heering. According to the survey, consulting firms, AM materials and manufacturing service providers have been hit the hardest. Many users of AM processes and users of AM parts also reported declining sales. “Many projects are currently being postponed. In addition, foreign business is significantly more difficult due to travel restrictions,” he added.
Confidence based on export expectations
Almost 40% of surveyed companies expected exports to rise in the next twelve months; a further 46% expect business abroad to remain at least at the same level. Looking twenty-four months ahead, more than two thirds of the companies surveyed stated that they expect exports to grow. Nine out of ten respondents cited the EU as their most important export market.
For 40% of respondents, exports to the USA are also highly relevant, and a fifth of them also named China as an important target market for their products and services. Heering sees this export orientation as proof of the increasing maturity of the AM industry. “At the same time, the large differences between the twelve and twenty-four month forecasts indicate a certain scepticism about a rapid return to normality without pandemic-related restrictions,” he noted.
AM industry ready to invest
Nevertheless, the willingness of companies to invest has increased compared to the last survey in April 2020. Some 35% now state that they want to expand their investments. In the April survey, this figure was just 24%.
Compared to 32% in April 2020, in this recent survey only 18% of those questioned now state that they are planning lower investments in the AM sector. “Even after the very difficult first half of the year, our member companies are still looking ahead to their growth opportunities,” stated Heering.
This is also reflected in the fact that a large proportion of companies say they are using the current rest period for product development and staff training. “They want to be ready when the economy picks up again,” he concluded.