For the first time ever, shipments of personal/desktop 3D printers saw a year-on-year drop in Q1 2018.
According to the latest report from CONTEXT, 3% fewer printers shipping globally compared to Q1 2017.
It wasn’t all bad for the segment, as industrial/professional printers saw a third consecutive quarter of year-on-year growth with shipments up 14%.
While low-priced personal 3D printers are of interest to many – they account for 81%+ of all global printer revenues – the professional segment is the most closely monitored and the one with the strongest links to overall market health, explained CONTEXT.
When grouped by class and segmented strictly by selling price, the biggest weakness can be seen in the professional 3D printer class, shipments of which were down 21% year-on-year after 112% growth in 2017.
In recent years, many 3D-printing stalwarts have largely abandoned this professional class, but it gained traction in 2017. CONTEXT said this was due to start-ups, who had previously focused mostly on personal 3D printing for consumers, hobbyists and education, beginning to “recognise the growing demand in this more price-inelastic segment”.
Chris Connery, VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT, noted: “This near-term downturn is expected to be an anomaly rather than a trend: vendors like 3D Systems are again focusing on this class of printers. Additionally, more and more end markets are seeing this as a separate category.”
The personal class of 3D printers, in which shipments were mostly flat year–on-year, is a “bit more of a concern for the industry”, according to CONTEXNT.
“Sub-$2,500 printers have seen great growth in recent years and sell well in education, hobbyist and even professional markets – unfettered growth in the sales of these low-priced printers has continued in spite of the lack of a true “consumer” market base,” said the market intelligence firm.
CONTEXT noted that in recent years, crowdsourcing platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been a barometer for demand but, over the last few quarters, they have offered few innovations in personal 3D-printer products, resulting in fewer-and-fewer successful campaigns.
Take a look at CONTEXT’s global 3D printer shipment graph below for more detail on how the segment has been evolving: