Oct 26, 2016 | By Alec

It looks like the desktop 3D printer market isn’t stagnating as much as a lot of people feared. After the initial 3D printing bubble of a few years ago, many experts believed that the market for desktop 3D printers would be saturated due to the steep learning curve associated with the 3D printing hobby. But the opposite seems to be true, as IT market research specialist CONTEXT concluded that desktop 3D printers in the sub $5,000 range are responsible for the 14 percent increase in worldwide 3D printer shipments over the first half of 2016.

CONTEXT is a London-based specialist in sales and pricing tracking technology. With specialists all over the world and support from the largest Distribution Channel Database in the world, they are known for providing market data directly to clients in a variety of markets. And as it’s nearly Halloween already, they now looked at the first six months of 3D printer sales in 2016. Their findings are slightly less optimistic than recent predictions from Gartner, who saw enough signs to conclude that 3D printer shipments would double over 2016.

While the first half of 2016 didn’t look quite that bright, the market still looked good according to CONTEXT. While 3D printer shipments in the industrial/professional segment declined with about 15 percent over the first six months of 2016, compared to the same period in 2016, 3D printers in the sub $5,000 personal/desktop category did well. Representing most of the total units sold, they grew by about 15 percent and are largely responsible for the global shipment increase of 14 percent.

As VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT Chris Connery revealed, the figures also showed that the market is increasingly stabilizing into two different segments. “The 3D Printer market is becoming more clearly segmented into the Personal/Desktop printer category and the Industrial/Professional category,” Connery said. “There is little crossover between brands, channels and sometimes even end markets. While linked by the term '3D Printing', the two markets are clearly distinct.”

So who are befitting from this growth in demand? As was expected, Taiwanese budget 3D printer manufacturer XYZprinting remains the global market leader, with a 19 percent share of all 3D printers sold over the first half of 2016 – despite a weaker second quarter. The rest of the top five is completed by Ultimaker, M3D, Flashforge and Stratasys (owners of MakerBot). With the exception of MakerBot, all saw shipment figures that were comparable to the same period in 2015. MakerBot’s organizational struggles and hardware deficiencies thus continue to affect the company’s sales. What’s more, hobbyists and enthusiasts continued to represent a significant part of the market, though Education and Engineering lead the way.

But of course shipment figures misrepresent the value of the various 3D printer segments, with industrial 3D printers being responsible for a massive 78 percent of all 3D printing revenues. Despite the lack of growth in that segment, overall 3D printer revenues grew with three percent over this period – especially pushed by metal 3D printing.

As was previously revealed, sector leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems continued to stagnate over the first half of 2016, with both companies already shaking up their business models this summer in response. Both saw sizable drop-offs in the shipment volumes, while other companies noted excellent figures. “Mindshare momentum is shifting to the likes of HP, Carbon and Metal 3D Printer makers,” said Connery. “With Stratasys and 3D Systems swapping out management and realigning strategies, competitive pressures are acting as a catalyst for future growth, with both of these top companies showcasing future technology advances prominently.”

If the industrial 3D printer segment is further sliced up into material segments, then metal stands out head and shoulders above the rest. Over the first half of 2016, metal 3D printer shipments grew with 17 percent. With SLM Solutions and Arcam AB being second and fourth in size in this segment, GE’s plan to acquire both companies would definitely take over a huge market slice – though we will have to wait and see if that deal ever materializes.

So why then did the sales stagnate? In part, this is thanks to several disruptive players appearing on the scene without being able to ship in large volumes yet. Many clients, CONTEXT concluded, are still waiting for the opportunity to purchase a machine. The biggest market disruptors are HP, whose Jet Fusion 3D printer hasn’t even shipped in bulk yet, and Carbon and RICOH. They are expected to make up the lost sales from established players in the coming months, and could bring the sales volume to a level similar to last year.

The Personal/Desktop segment, meanwhile, is set to continue their expansion rates over the rest of the year. Over the whole of 2016, CONTEXT concludes that a +35 percent growth in desktop 3D printer shipment volume can be expected – especially pushed by several new releases. XYZprinting recently unveiled some sub $300 3D printers, while other crowdsourced pre-orders for budget 3D printers are likely ship before the end of the year.

But a lot more can be expected in 2017, as Connery expects a market shift towards manufacturing. “Even though the 3D Printing market is alternatively called the Additive Printing or Additive Manufacturing (AM) market, most of the printers sold today - with the exception of Metal 3D Printers - are still focused on Rapid Prototyping. The next step for the industry is to focus on the 'M' side of the AM market,” Connery added. “As the Plastics side of the market begins to shift focus toward end-part production in 2017 and beyond, in line with the Metal side which has already turned this corner, this market really will begin to accelerate.” Stagnation, in short, is a word that doesn’t do justice to the 3D printing market at all.



Posted in 3D Printer



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