Jun 13, 2016 | By Tess

The International Data Corporation (IDC), one of the world’s leading market research firms, has dedicated a number of studies to the growing 3D printing industry, looking at the growth of the Chinese 3D printing market, the forecasted growth of global 3D printing spending, and more. Each study and report indicates that the 3D printer and printing industry is steadily on the rise. The IDC’s latest report, which details the growth and expected growth of U.S. 3D printer shipments, further reinforces this notion.

The report, entitled U.S. 3D Printer Forecast, 2016-2020: New 3D Print/Additive Manufacturing Technologies Fuel Growth, indicates that 3D printer shipments within the United States grew nearly 20% from 2014 to 2015, and are expected grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 16% from now until 2020.

Tim Greene, research director at Hardcopy Solutions, says of the growth: “People and companies that are adopting 3D printers are routinely realizing tremendous time and cost savings in their product creation and development cycles. As printer speeds increase and the range of materials expands, a growing number of products and parts, and therefore markets, will be impacted by 3D printing/additive manufacturing.”

He continues, “Already the 3D printer mix in the U.S. has changed over the last 12-24 months. While there are still a lot of shipments into the DIY/consumer market, tremendous growth remains in the segments with a more professional and manufacturing orientation. Leading 3D printer manufacturers are adopting new processes throughout their operations to reposition their businesses for this change.”

The IDC report also clearly breaks down which areas and types of 3D printing technology will grow most significantly in the coming years. For instance, low-cost 3D printing systems (under $1,000), which are dominantly FFF/FDM based, are expected to keep growing at a projected CAGR rate of over 12% through 2020. These low-cost printers, which are benefitting from the development of better 3D printing materials, are increasingly being used by individuals and even small scale businesses.

In terms of professional 3D printer systems, which operate with more precision and higher speeds than the aforementioned low-cost 3D printers, the IDC projects an even stronger growth at a CAGR rate of more than 20%. 3D printer shipments for the highest-end 3D printer market, which are predominantly jet or sintering/melting systems, are expected to increase at an “aggressive rate” through to the year 2020, as professional manufacturers and companies adopt them for larger-scale production and prototyping.

In terms of individual 3D printing technologies, the report states that over 75% of total 3D printer shipments in the U.S. in 2015 were FFF/FDM 3D printers, a percentage which is expected to drop to less than 60% by 2020. Stereolithography or SLA 3D printers, which currently make up 11% of total shipments, are expected to grow to over 20% within the next four years. Similarly, sintering/melting additive manufacturing technologies are projected to see dynamic growth through 2020, especially as the advanced technologies become more accessible with lower investment costs.

Mcor’s Select Deposition Lamination (SDL), which additively manufactures objects out of paper material, is also expected to see an increase in shipments as their 3D printers have been given a lower price point. Of course, with the release of HP’s latest jetting 3D printing system, it seems obvious that materials jetting will see dynamic growth over the next four years. Along with HP, market leaders like Stratasys are expected to boost the materials jetting shipments.

Greene adds, “The growth of the 3D printer hardware market is just part of the total 3D printing/additive manufacturing picture. Printer hardware revenue combined with the expansion of 3D printing services and the consumption of materials already represent a $2.5 billion market in the U.S. in 2015, and that is expected to grow at a rate of more than 20% through 2020.”

 

 

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