Jul 12, 2016 | By Andre

The growth of 3D printing over the last five or so years is something that its inventor Charles Hull couldn’t have imagined during the technology’s gradual growth period since the early 1980s. But as we’ve covered on a number of occasions in recent years, the sales of 3D printers from consumer based to industrial units are on the up and up.

This being said, the recent hype that has surrounded the technology has faded ever so slightly. Publicly traded 3D printer companies have gone through tremendous highs and subsequent lows, the consumer promise of a 3D printer in every household will have a wait a little and Star Trek’s replicator might be a 24th century convenience after all.

But there are statistics out there and no matter how you slice it, there remains a gradual upward swing if you take the time to digest it all. To drive that point home, it’s worth analyzing 3D print cloud service Astroprint and their just released statistics and trends charts specific to their platform. While it is worth noting that their user-base remains a small percentage of those with 3D printers, the information is valid still.

The analytics breaks down average print time, most popular 3D printers, those with the most print time, print quality breakdown and most used slicers on AstroPrint. If you do take a look, you’ll notice the average print time in hours has gone up every month since November of 2015 but to me the more interesting stat has to do with the 3D printers being used on the cloud service.

PrintrBot Simple Metal, AW3D HD2x and Creator Pro 3D printers seem to be ahead of the pack both in terms of being the most popular machines but also the ones with the most print time. That in itself says a lot about where things are and ultimately where they’re heading still.

I would have imagined more Makerbot 3D printers and to a degree Cubes by 3D Systems (granted, most of their family of printers have long since been discontinued). It’s statistics like this that might be a telling sign of why the stock prices of the publicly traded companies in control of those divisions have been selling at a bargain for over a year now. It seems like open-source is still Queen when it comes to the desktop 3D printer community.

Moving on, the statistics also show that most users have custom print settings in place for their machines and don’t rely too much on the out-of-the-box settings when preparing files. To me, as someone that rarely sticks to the default settings across the board, this makes sense. Every new file is unique enough that custom options are generally a good idea.

In the end, just like how website tracking site Alexa isn’t the end-all when it comes to determining how popular one website stands up against the next, these stats aren’t guaranteed to present the entire story. The most slicers used chart is limited to Cura and Slic3r with no other slicer representation at the current time. This, however, is due to the fact that other slicers (such as Simplify3D) don't have open source cloud slicers availble.

But heck, even AstroPrint admits these are still early numbers and a public API is still due to be released. So it makes sense the numbers might be a little bit skewed to favour some devices and software over others. Regardless of this, the more and more data that becomes available to track the use of 3D printers around the world should continue to draw a clearer picture of how much growth the technology is actually experiencing in these still early days of 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printing Service



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