Additive Manufacturing (AM) / Rapid prototyping (RP) has been active in South Africa for 21 years now, and the market has grown from a single 3D Systems SLA 250 in 1991, to approximately 268 machines in 2011. As per the graph shown below, it is evident that system sales experienced a considerable growth in the last two years.
Approximately 94% of all machines sold in SA are in the 3D Printer category. Whilst this represents a staggering majority, one should keep in mind that according to the 2009/2010 data, it also meant that although 3D Printers are being sold in a high majority compared to the high-end systems, it probably shares the investment made in AM platforms on a 50:50 basis, if one compares the price per system sold.
A further worthwhile analysis that has been made on the 2010 data is that industry ownership now overtakes university / science institution ownership by far. Furthermore, only approximately 2/3 of universities in SA have AM equipment in-house, whilst approximately 25% of these pursue AM as a research field.
During the 2009/2010 audit, it became evident that Stratasys (through mainly Dimension/Uprint sales) had the majority of systems in the country – approximately 47% of system sales.
The current figures shows that 3D Systems is now in a definite 2nd place, mainly due to the high number of RAPMAN and BFB 3000 sales. The current drive/surge in sales is definitely caused by the low-priced entry level systems, available from just more than R10 000 and up to R35 000. Whilst these systems have limitations, it allows small companies / universities / schools and individuals to get involved in AM. The general opinion is that once these entities have reached a point of satisfaction (from a user and machine capability point of view) they will start looking at high-end machines, rather than necessarily investing in the 3D Printer market as before.
The graph below indicates (up to 2009/2010) how investment in AM platforms realised in SA
The following OEMs have machines in SA, the majority being represented by dedicated agents or resellers:
- 3D Systems (Inc BFB)
- Sol idscape
- EOS • Solido
- UP! PP3DP