Global 3D printing market continues to boom

Context, a London-based IT market research company, has just published its latest figures and expectations for the global 3D printing industry, which comprises of the sale of 3D printers, materials and services. Their report, which forecasts a growth in the overall industry from $4,1-billion in 2015 to $18,4-billion in 2020, also indicates a rise in 3D printer shipments of 9% in Q1 2016 since last year.

Interestingly, the report also lays out figures that suggest that the growth of the 3D printing industry has been largely supported by the sales of sub $4 500 personal or desktop 3D printers, as the number of industrial/professional 3D printers has dropped by 20% since Quarter 1 2015. Despite this drop, however, the industrial/professional 3D printer market still made up for 78% of global additive manufacturing revenues.

Notably, established 3D printer market leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems have experienced revenue declines over the past year, with Stratasys shipping 32% fewer of its 3D printer units over the past year, and 3D Systems an even more drastic 66%. Despite having released exciting new products such as the multi-material, multi-colour J750 3D printer (Stratasys), both companies are in the process of overhauling and changing management, an admittedly destabilizing factor.

Chris Connery, vice-president for global analysis at Context, explains, “The 3D Printer market continues to witness a great deal of change. Long-time market leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems look to overhaul their businesses while high profile brands like HP, Ricoh and others begin to lay the groundwork for their vision to kick-start the industry.”

Despite the overall drop in revenue from the industrial/professional 3D printing market, metal 3D printing has remained a strong growth factor within it. Referred to as “the bright side of the industrial/professional 3D printing sector”, metal additive manufacturing has experiences a 29% year-on-year growth in the number of metal 3D printing systems shipped over the past year. According to Context, three out of five of the top earning companies in terms of revenue have established or are establishing metal 3D printer systems. These companies are EOS, German SLM Solutions, and Swedish Arcam AB.

According to their press release, Context is “optimistic but reserved in its forecast in the industrial/professional sector in the near term”. That is until potential game-changers like HP and Ricoh along with existing industry leaders can truly demonstrate the benefits and manufacturing potentials of industrial 3D printing in plastics.

As mentioned, the desktop/personal 3D printer market has been an important part of the overall industry’s growth, with a diverse and ever-growing number of companies producing new systems. Taiwanese 3D printer manufacturer XYZprinting has remained at the top of the global market in Q1 2016, despite its overall shares dropping to 25%—likely because of the emergence of new companies. Also in the top 5 are M3D, Ultimaker, Stratasys, and Flashforge. A conveyor belt system facilitates the process and transportation procedures.

The continued growth within the desktop/personal 3D printer market can be attributed in part to a growing emphasis on education, makers/hobbyists, and young engineers. As the technology becomes increasingly integrated into a wide number of industries, including aerospace, medical, architecture, fashion, etc., machines are needed to introduce younger generations to the technology. As Connery explains, “Whether it begins with the introduction to the technology by way of a toy as we will see later on this year with Mattel’s ThingMaker, by way of a few hundred dollar Kickstarter printer, or from leading brands like XYZprinting, MakerBot and others, as generations before had to become familiar with PCs, this generation needs to learn 3D printing.”

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