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Industrial and design categories boost 3D printer market

The 3D printer industry is on pace for 25% higher-end printer growth in 2019 thanks to a boost from the industrial and design categories, reports Context.

While the cheapest class of 3D printers, those in the personal category, struggled in 2018, the high-end industrial category – which accounts for 70% of the global revenues of printer hardware – witnessed a year-on-year shipment growth of 18% – a trend Context expects to see accelerate in 2019.

Growth last year was driven by increases in shipments of both metal 3D printers – up 26% year-on-year, largely thanks to newcomers such as Markforged (pictured) – and in industrial and design class polymer printers from the likes of Carbon, HP and 3D Systems. 3D Systems also saw “excellent growth in the professional segment which it re-entered in 2018,” says Context.

At the higher end of the metals 3D printer market, in the industrial and design segments, 2018 was characterised by the emergence of lower-priced multi-step metal printers. These products – which straddle the line between the two price classes – add new options to the already growing metal additive manufacturing market.

“New, lower priced metal 3D Printers are targeted not just for factory use but also for office use and do not necessarily compete head-to-head with the more traditional robust metal 3D printers which use lasers to fuse powder in a single-step such as those from GE Additive, EOS, SLM Solutions, 3D Systems and others,” said Chris Connery, VP of Global Research at Context.

“Powder Bed laser-based 3D Printers are currently used for everything from jet engine parts to orthopaedic implants. New lower-priced metal printers look to augment this usage to now allow for more economical ways to create metal prototypes for these parts as well as allow for cheaper low-volume production of metal parts.”

While economical low-volume production and prototyping is something relatively new to the metals market, these uses have long defined the polymer market and resulted in a healthy range of printer price points from professional to design to industrial classes. Of these markets, the design and industrial spaces in polymers look to lead the growth in 2019.

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