Dec 22, 2015 | By Alec

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s becoming easier to see what 3D printing has achieved over 2015, and what it could do in 2016. Fortunately, most predictions on the growth of the 3D printing market and the development of the technology have been fairly positive, with markets expected to grow just about everywhere. A new report by IDC (International Data Corporation) is especially positive about the Chinese market for desktop 3D printing. With sales already having grown by 120% over 2015, they are now predicting that more than 160,000 3D printers will be sold in China over 2016 – surpassing the also growing US market.

Of course, 3D printing is hot in China right now. Even the Chinese government has gotten behind the technology, launching their “Made in China 2025” program in 2014 with the goal of encouraging 3D printer production and sales. This has clearly been effective, as sales have been growing exponentially since 2014. With just 34,000 units being shipped within China in 2014, that number has already more than doubled over the last year by reaching 77,000 units. IDC, a global consulting leader for various technology markets, is now predicting that this trend will continue over the coming year.

Of course, the vast majority of those models sold are desktop 3D printers priced at lower than $5,000. This is also closely related to the Chinese government’s support for educational 3D printing programs, which are obviously relying on numerous low-cost desktop models. In terms of volume, it is estimated that 90% of all 3D printers sold in the Chinese market are low-cost desktop 3D printers, creating quite a significant gap in market income between desktop 3D printers and professional grade 3D printers. The income ratio is therefore still skewed in the other direction, with 78% of 3D printing revenue being generated by professional 3D printers – especially metal 3D printers, high quality FDM machines and other high precision 3D printers.

The demand for 3D printers is thus significant in China, and expected to rise with the help of government backing. With the publication of Made in China 2025, coinciding with the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan, China will vigorously promote the cultivation of design talents and manufacturing reform. It is expected that this will fuel a very impressive growth rate of 3D printer sales, and the compound annual growth rate could be as high as 43 percent by 2020. It is expected that shipments of 3D printers could be as high as 440,000 by that same year.

The effects of government backing can thus be felt over the next year. “In 2016 China's 3D printer market shipments will reach 160,000 units, surpassing the US market,’ says. Mo Minyi, an analyst with IDC China. “However, in terms of income, the US market will remain ahead of China, as the Chinese 3D printer market growth rate over the coming five years is primarily being driven by low cost desktop machines. In contrast, a relatively higher emphasis is placed on industrial 3D printing and high-cost, high-end 3D printers in the US market, where a relatively high number of business users is turning to 3D printing.”

The Chinese market can also, the analysts predict, see a growth in demand for professional machines over the coming years. The government is actively promoting manufacturing reform and the development of high quality domestic aerospace, high-speed rail and high end manufacturing industries, which can all fuel the demand for high quality 3D printing, says IDC. They further argue that 3D printer manufacturers should focus on these business users and provide them with 3D printing solutions that can be incorporated into existing design and manufacturing processes. “Chinese 3D printer manufacturers cannot continue to rely on a price break out in the market, but need to increase their competitiveness by actively studying and developing solutions for corporate clients, which reflects the value of that portion of the 3D printing market,” argues Mo Minyi.

Despite the expected growth, there is thus plenty of room for improvement in the domestic 3D printing market of China. And though Chinese 3D printers are increasingly finding their way to the west as well, Mo Minyi argues that manufacturers aiming at the overseas market can also improve their services. They may, he says, considering enhancing their services and support programs for overseas buyers, which should greatly increase interest and trust in their machines.

 

 

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