Mar. 19, 2015 | By Alec

So what really is the value of the 3D printing industry? While everyone agrees that 3D printing technology is ‘hot’ right now and that encouraging growth signs are everywhere, it is remarkably difficult to put a price tag on all that. As you might know, various international research institutes have devoted time and money finding out – such as Gartner, PwC, Canalys, IDC and Wohlers – and their results are encouraging.

While it remains difficult to get a correct global assessment, they largely agree that the 3D printing market was worth anywhere between 2 and 4 billion euros in 2013, while they project a value of up to 14 billion in 2018. The market prognosis for 2015 is expected to be somewhere in the region of 6 billion. This includes all aspects of 3D printing, including professional and consumer 3D printing, printer sales, services and even the resources used to build them. Meanwhile, quite a lot of 3D printers have been sold throughout the world. In 2013 alone, almost 10,000 industrial 3D printers were sold (including 348 metal 3D printers), while consumers purchased a respectable 72,500 desktop 3D printers.

3D printing is, in short, hot. But how does that worldwide figure translate into national perspectives? To what extent has 3D printing taken hold of western economies and industries? Fortunately Sector Banker David Kemp from Dutch bank ABN AMBRO has studied the position of 3D printers in the Dutch economy. As a small, largely middle class country with a population of some 17 million people, including an industrial sector for machine builders and metals and plastics manufacturers worth 100 billion euros, it’s an excellent case study. As Kemp revealed on his bank’s website (in Dutch), the Dutch 3D printing market is still in its infancy, though is already worth 45 million euros over 2015 while there are plenty of growth opportunities on the horizon.

However, Kemp found it quite challenging to determine the exact size of the market due to a lack of public figures. ‘Based on our long experience in this market and many discussions with various parties, ABN AMRO estimates that the Dutch market turnover for 2015 is around 45 million euros. This includes both the professional and the consumer markets, for which we have looked at: 1. sale of 3D printing systems; 2. printed products (equipment and Dutch services providers), and; 3. software and services including training, maintenance and consulting resources.’

The market for professional 3D printers is still small, Kemp revealed, as there are no domestic manufacturers of professional 3D printers. Instead revenues for 3D printer sales simply reflect the profit margins of 3D printer distributers such as Landré Brilliant, Palio and earn Kentie. Although several Dutch initiatives are working on their own industrial 3D printers, the Netherlands is already lagging behind other countries. ‘Our German neighbours, for example, have manufacturers such as EOS and Envisiontec. The US has its own listed market leaders 3D Systems and Stratasys,’ he writes.

The Dutch economy even lacks its major airplane industries, while international manufacturers such as GE and Rolls Royce are already 3D printing wind turbines. The Dutch economy does, however, host a number of smaller businesses that are doing well in their own right. ‘ LUXeXceL from Goes uses 3D printing technology to produce high-quality lenses, while ASML relies on 3D printed parts for several of their machines. But most Dutch manufacturers only rely 3D printing for its rapid prototyping qualities, which is difficult to analyse in terms of value,’ Kemp argues.

But in terms of Service Providers, the Dutch fair a bit better. Of the 160 professional 3D printers used in the Netherlands, most are used for prototyping at Shell, Philips and other companies, but about twenty are used by 3D printing providers Shapeways and Oceanz. These, as you probably know, 3D print for consumers and small businesses on a large scale, while various other providers (such as Mundo Amitek) also 3D print for high end engineering industries such as dental and medical. All in all, Kemp estimates that the total turnover of the service providers treasure is somewhere between 11 to 14 million euros over 2015 – worth more than the rest of the industrial sector (approximately 8 million).

As might be expected in a largely middle class economy, at least the consumer market is doing much better. Approximately 345 desktop 3D printers are sold in the Netherlands every week by Dutch 3D printer manufacturers Ultimaker, LeapFrog, Builder 3D and Felix Netherlands, while country (which is twice the size of New Jersey) hosts 45 Fablabs and numerous Hubs. All figures and reports suggest that the Netherlands is home to an active and enthusiastic 3D printing community, so it’s hardly surprising that the consumer market alone is worth a turnover of 20 million euros over 2015 alone.

Despite those levels of consumption, the Dutch market for 3D printing resources (filaments, resins, powders), is also very small. While the industry was worth about 475 million euros worldwide in 2013, the Dutch share in this highly competitive market is small. Largely thanks to the Emmen-based Innofil3D, Dutch manufacturers for 3D printing materials will reach a commodity turnover of anywhere between 1 and 2 million over 2015.

So where does this leave the Dutch 3D printing market? Despite the enormous hype and waves of optimism that surround 3D printing technology, a turnover of 45 million euros is just a drop in the 100 billion ocean of Dutch industrial production. And yet Kemp feels that the sector is too big to ignore. ‘An annual growth of 30 percent per year and a very volatile and disruptive character means that 3D printing technology cannot be ignored. It won’t revolutionize Dutch manufacturing just yet, but can instead best be interpreted as a useful addition to the current industry,’ he says.

Furthermore, the Wohlers report of 2014 estimated that 3D printing technology will account for more than 2 percent of industrial sales in the long term, which could thus become a market worth 2 billion per year – not bad at all. For now, however, it looks like Dutch industry is lagging behind in terms of innovation.

Nonetheless, the focus of the coming years will doubtlessly be on consumer-oriented development. Just like every 3D printing community out there, the Dutch market is continuously calling for more attention, more personalized manufacturing and higher demands for sustainability and productivity. While the industrial market is lagging behind, Kemp and others believe there is still plenty of room for growth in the competitive market of consumer 3D printing. Provided the demands of the users are met, this will surely be the cornerstone of 3D printing technology in many western economies during the coming years.



Posted in 3D Printing Company


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SmarTech Markets wrote at 3/19/2015 7:13:34 PM:

Very good analysis - country level reports are somewhat difficult to come by. While we think the figure for desktop printers globally exceed the broad numbers listed in this article by about 20%, we estimate that Ultimaker in particular controls a significant share of the market for low cost printers and sold around 17,000 systems in 2014.

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