Oct 13, 2016 | By Alec

Time is flying by fast, and it’s October already. Aside from Halloween approaching rapidly, this also means that market experts are getting a more complete view of what the 3D printing market is doing over 2016. The numbers are remarkable. Though the growth rate of the 3D printing market has worried some specialists, Gartner just revealed that their models predict that a massive 455,772 3D printers will be shipped in 2016, more than doubling the 219,168 units shipped in 2015.

Gartner is the world's leading information technology research and market advisory company, and is known for its detailed and often correct interpretations of market mechanisms. Over the past few years, they have been following the 3D printing market very closely, which has led to some interesting predictions and market insights already. Back in December 2015, they predicted that 10 percent of people in the developed world will own 3D printed items, such as wearable and accessories by 2019. Their latest findings have been compiled in the report Forecast: 3D Printers, Worldwide, 2016.

But it’s also no secret that the explosive growth of the desktop 3D printer market in 2014 could not be maintained, while professionals were slower to adopt the technology. 3D printing therefore found itself in a bit of a lull after a lot of initial optimism. But Gartner’s prediction and conclusions suggest that the market is doing better than expected. Despite that initial lull, they now believe that the next few years will see significant growth, growing to a total of 6.7 million 3D printers shipped in 2020. That growth is already visible today, with the worldwide shipment of 3D printers growing by 108 percent over 2016, with professional-grade 3D printer shipments growing by 44 percent over the same year.

It’s a pattern that convinced Gartner research vice president Pete Basiliere to conclude that 3D printing cannot be seen as a niche market anymore. “3D printing has continued its rapid transformation into a broad-based mainstream technology embraced by consumers and enterprises around the world,” Basiliere said. “The evolution of hardware and software along with an ever-expanding collection of usable materials has driven growth in both the consumer and enterprise 3D printing markets.”

The 3D printer market itself obviously embraces various 3D printing technologies, from FDM all the way up to Selective Laser Sintering metal 3D printing, but it seems as though low-cost desktop 3D printers are still leading the way. In fact, Gartner predicts that those FDM extrusion-based 3D printers will continue to lead market growth all the way up to 2020.

However, the demand for SLA resin-based 3D printers will also continue to grow rapidly, especially pushed by material innovations. “The primary market driver for consumer 3D printers costing under $2,500 is the acquisition of low-cost devices by educational institutions and enterprise engineering, marketing and creative departments,” Basiliere argued. “3D printers are being utilized for several applications and subjects by students in secondary and postsecondary schools where the use of 3D printers can prepare students for many career paths, such as engineering, manufacturing, aerospace and robotics.”

What’s more, the report found that prototyping will continue to be the main driver behind the 3D printer market’s growth, with material advances and 3D printing quality only increasing prototyping appeal. But 3D printers will also be increasingly used to augment manufacturing, with that application set to grow by 75 percent by 2020. In that year, nearly 65 percent of discrete manufacturers expect to be using 3D printing to produce components of their products or services.

Moreover, the defense industry will become a big adopter of 3D printing as well, Basiliere argued. “Aircraft and aerospace manufacturers have been taking this approach for years, using 3D printers to produce low-volume parts and small lots of parts with complex designs,” he revealed. “Military organizations, whose equipment often has very long lives, are working with defense contractors to evaluate 3D printing of replacement and modified components on shore and at sea.”

So where is all this growth taking place? Of course North America and Western Europe will continue to represent major segments in the 3D printer market of today, but their growth rates are expected to fall behind other regions – specifically the Greater China and the Asia/Pacific markets. Echoing Gartner conclusions from last year, the data specialists are now arguing that these regions will experience a combination of high 3D printer shipments and high growth rates all the way until 2020. These trends will be driven by sector and public-sector organizations that have recognized, they argue, the threat that 3D printing poses to conventional manufacturing standards. The 3D printing revolution, it seems, has only just begun picking up steam.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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