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formnext 2017: Business perspectives and expectations of the AM industry The formnext powered by TCT exhibition, held from November 14-17, 2017, in Frankfurt, Germany, featured a parallel four-day conference that addressed a wide range of issues of relevance to the Additive Manufacturing community. Besides technical and application innovations, a whole day of the conference was devoted to business considerations and expectations relating to the future development of the AM industry. In this exclusive report for Metal AM magazine, Dr Georg Schlieper highlights a number of key business-related considerations for the future of the industry.
Understanding the risks associated with AM start-ups In his keynote address at formnext 2017, Terry Wohlers, President of international AM consulting firm Wohlers Associates, warned that, in his experience, 90% of all start-ups fail. The reasons for this are diverse, but first and foremost is insufficient demand for a new product or business idea. Often, the market is not ready for or does not accept a proposed new product. Secondly, start-up companies often lack the financial resources to survive a longer lean period, thereby entering into insolvency. Start-ups also often lack sufficient experience in manufacturing technologies and, consequently, the quality of a product may not meet the expectations of the market. Entrepreneurs, stated Wohlers, are well advised to consider these risks thoroughly before embarking on such an adventure.
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As far as Additive Manufacturing is concerned, Wohlers stated that design is of prime importance for the success of the technology. “We have just scratched the surface of what bionic design has to offer,” he said. Designing and building a product by AM, however, is just
a part of the manufacturing process, a fact that is all too often forgotten. Using the aerospace sector as one example, Wohlers stated that 70% of the total costs in Additive Manufacturing are incurred by pre- and postprocessing operations.
Fig. 1 Delegates at the formnext 2017 conference (Courtesy Mesago/ Thomas Klerx)
Metal Additive Manufacturing | Spring 2018