The VDMA’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group (AG AM) has released the results of a member survey it conducted in April 2020. With almost eighty members taking part, the VDMA stated that production service providers, users and machine manufacturers were particularly well represented.
According to the survey results, 75% of those questioned assessed their business prospects for the next twenty-four months as positive, while only 6% expect their business situation to deteriorate. The short-term forecast for the next twelve months is also positive, or at least unchanged, at 39% each. Only 22% of those surveyed fear a negative development.
Dr Markus Heering, Managing Director of the VDMA’s Additive Manufacturing Working Group, stated, “Despite the currently noticeable effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, the mood in our industry remains one of confidence.”
“Compared to our last member survey in September 2019, optimism remains almost unbroken.” At the time of the 2019 survey, 77% of members had a positive assessment of the outlook for the next twenty-four months, only 2% more than now. AG AM states that what has changed are primarily the short-term expectations.
Dr Heering explains that he is surprised by the positive mood, but considers it to be consistent in itself as the members surveyed underscore their optimism through entrepreneurial action. He added, “One in four companies says it plans to increase its investments and another 44% plan to invest at the same level.”
Compared to the survey in September 2019, the investment plans are surprisingly stable, he says, adding that now 32% of those surveyed want to cut back on their investments, instead of 16% last year, is understandable in view of the crisis.
“Conversely, this means that two-thirds of those surveyed want to maintain or even increase their investment level.” He believes this is proof of the motivation and determination of the industry.
Dr Heering reports that he sees an additional reason for the confidence of the member companies in the growing technological maturity. For example, 41% of those surveyed say that they intend to use additive processes mainly in series production over the next twelve months. In contrast, the use of prototypes, samples and additive tools and spare parts is declining slightly. The attention of the members shifted towards costs, stability and speed of AM processes. According to the survey, the topics of standardisation, automation and quality assurance are also gaining in relevance. Dr Heering states that he interprets this as a clear indication of the maturing process in the industry.
A third of the respondents have benefited from this technological progress in Additive Manufacturing during the COVID-19 crisis. For example, 34% stated that they were able to circumvent COVID-19 related supply bottlenecks with the help of additively manufactured components. Also against this background, the companies see the
pandemic more as a driver for the use of Additive Manufacturing processes than as an obstacle. More than half believe that the importance of AM will increase as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. In contrast, only 5% fear a loss of importance.
Dr Heering explained that due to the COVID-19 situation, platforms have come together around the world in a very short space of time to respond quickly to acute needs for protective equipment, auxiliary devices and components for medical devices with additive processes.
He commented, “During the crisis, Additive Manufacturing is perceived as a flexible and quickly adaptable enabler technology. Although this was not always possible straight away because of the regulations in this field, public awareness has grown that Additive Manufacturing is ideal for emergency situations and unusual requirements”.