Nov 25, 2015 | By Kira

Market Research Company CONTEXT has just released some very promising news for the global 3D printing industry: though it’s been a year of ups and downs for some of the biggest industry names, over half a million 3D printers have been shipped globally between the 1980’s and mid-2015, with the millionth unit on track to ship by 2017. Passing the 500K unit mark is a major milestone for 3D printer manufacturers, resellers, and users worldwide, and with recent industry shakeups, the market is primed for new entrants to lead the way.

A more in-depth look at this news reveals quite a bit of insight into the history of the 3D printing industry itself. Whereas the rapid prototyping or additive manufacturing industry began in earnest in the 1980’s, back then the market consisted almost exclusively of professional and industrial systems that carried a weighted average selling price of over $100,000, which obviously deterred mainstream consumers from even beginning to consider entering the market. Beginning in 2007 and peaking in 2014 however, several major 3D printing technology patents expired, allowing the low-cost personal/desktop 3D printer market to significantly expand, and directly leading to the 500K unit milestone we’ve reached today.

In fact, according to CONTEXT, a remarkable proportion—85%—of the half million 3D printers shipped to date carried a global weighted average price of just $1,451, clearly indicating that they belong to the personal/desktop 3D printer category, rather than the industrial bracket. On average, these personal/desktop 3D printers are priced below $3,500.

While this uptick in global shipments is great for personal and industrial 3D printer manufacturers alike, the global industry will most likely need to rely on new entrants to the market for future growth.

"This year has been challenging especially in the long standing Industrial/Professional market. Through the first half of this year, there have been 1% fewer printers shipped in this high-end sector than in the first half of last year, a stark contrast to the shipment growth of 29% seen from 2013 to 2014," explained Chris Connery, VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT. "Even the fast growing Personal/Desktop 3D Printing sector, which saw phenomenal 61% year-on-year growth in the first half of this year, is showing some weakness with preliminary indications highlighting that Q3'15 shipments might be below those of Q3'14.”

Indeed, 2015 has seen two of the biggest industry names, Stratasys and 3D Systems, come face to face with major challenges. Stratasys announced a $938M loss in their third quarter and laid off many employees in their Makerbot division. Meanwhile, 3D Systems saw shares drop 7 per cent after parting ways with long-time president and CEO Avi Reichental. Still, both companies continue to predict future growth, and just today, each posted big stock gains, with 3D Systems (DDD) up by 5.8% and Stratasys (SSYS) up 5.1%.

Only time will tell how these long-time players will fare, but in the immediate future, it seems as though new entrants from the 2D printing market are primed to shake things up. Canon, Ricoh and Hewlett Packard have all recently announced their entry to the 3D printing market, and technological innovations at all levels are keeping consumer interest levels high.

So what’s the big takeaway? Though both the industrial/professional segment and personal/desktop 3D printing segments were weak in Q3 2015, new entrants from the traditional printing market could signify a major changing of the guard. All stats and figures taken into consideration, CONTEXT predicts that the global 3D printing industry is right on track to ship its millionth unit by 2017, with upwards of 1M units being shipped every year from 2019 onwards—not that we ever doubted that would be the case.



Posted in 3D Printer



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kb wrote at 11/29/2015 12:36:50 PM:

It's interesting to read how patents refrain development!

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