Contract manufacturing is big business—and it's about to get bigger. Technology forecasters estimate that the industry will grow to above $250B by 2004. Latest numbers for 2001 put the figure at $110B. Why the growth spurt? Once known almost exclusively for building boards for customers, many contract manufacturers are now involved in many stages of product development—from prototyping to design, to testing to training. In fact, 73% of the manufacturers surveyed in a recent study by Reed Business say that they see themselves doing more designs for customers in the next two years. Top reasons: Cost efficiency; technical expertise; and fast cycle times.
An in-depth survey of 700 current and future users of 3D printing holds few surprises, but results emphasize some major trends already in progress. Two standouts are the big growth in end-use parts and metal additive manufacturing (AM) most respondents expect.
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