China 3D printing
China's ambitions in the race to become the world's most powerful 3D printing nation have been made very clear - that the world's second-largest economy has its eyes on the prize.
A report from Plastics & Rubber Weekly has revealed that the Asian superpower - which is tipped to overtake the US in terms of fiscal clout after the next Presidential election - plans to become the global leader in additive manufacturing technology by 2016.
Decision-makers in Beijing plan to follow in 3D printing giant 3D Systems' footsteps by buying their way to the top.
Mr Wohlers said in his keynote speech at the Rapid 2013 Conference & Exposition in Pittsburgh, PA, on June 12th that the Chinese government is pledging to invest 1.5 billion yuan ($245 million, £160 million) in a seven-year project that will boost development of additive manufacturing.
Wohlers Associates has been tracking the 3D printing industry for a quarter of a century and the 18th annual edition of the Wohlers Report stated that the industry grew by more than 28 per cent over the course of 2012 when counting all types of revenues such as service-bureau fees and equipment sales.
Mr Wohlers estimates that media attention over the past 12 months alone has doubled, thanks in part to Barack Obama's extolling of the technology in his State of the Union address in February, claiming 3D printing could "revolutionise the way we make almost everything".
He remarked: "I've never seen so much interest in this technology. It's unprecedented. It's like flipping a switch."
However, Mr Wohlers noted that because of the sudden media interest, there's an "illusion that this is a brand-new technology. That's not true, it's been around for 25 years" - a fact the industry is keen to get across.
Indeed, China has been investing in 3D printing since the early 1990s and is something of an early adopter.
Mr Wohlers stated that a Beijing-funded trade group called the Asian Manufacturing Association aims to promote the integration of additive manufacturing technology with the wider industry by establishing ten innovation institutes, each starting with a $3.3 million injection of investment.
He added that one Chinese company in Hefei, Anhui Province, is investing 750 million yuan to jump on the 3D printing bandwagon, indicating that the country's business sector keen to explore the technology further with or without government funding.
According to the Wohlers Report, the US accounts for nearly 40 per cent of all industrial 3D printing systems sold globally, followed by Japan (9.7 per cent), Germany (9.4 per cent) and China (8.7 per cent). However, the US is losing its leadership position in terms of additive manufacturing equipment production, as of the major industrial additive manufacturing systems manufacturers, 16 are now in Europe, seven are based in China and just five remain in the US.
In addition to China, the Wohlers Report indicates the rest of Asia could benefit from increased interest in 3D printing, with Singapore building a 3D printing infrastructure thanks to $400 million in funding for a five-year advanced manufacturing programme. Japan, meanwhile, has installed a large additive manufacturing base but its activity has slowed and the nation is struggling with steep public debts and a fragile economy.