They have been around for some time now, but 2017 appears to have been the year when the market finally woke up to 3D printers. During the first three quarters of 2017, both the industrial/ professional and the personal/ desktop sectors of the 3D printer market witnessed global unit volume growth when compared to 2016, according to Context.
In particular the personal/ desktop market continued to surge, seeing 45 per cent more printers shipped over Q1 to Q3 2017 than in the same period of the previous year. Meanwhile the industrial/ professional market is on track to post year-on-year growth in unit volume for the first time in three years having grown by 2 per cent through the first three quarters.
Polymer printers continue to dominate the market, accounting for 84 per cent of all industrial/ professional machines shipped in Q3 2017.
In 2017, the market began to recognise new classes of products and move beyond using a single $5,000 price barrier to define key segments. Companies leading the way in the new Professional class – which covers devices costing from $2,500 to $20,000 – include Formlabs, Ultimaker, Leapfrog, MakerBot, and Markforged. While all four new sub-classes saw printer shipments increase in the period, this class witnessed 162 per cent year-on-year growth as brands like Ultimaker shifted to higher price points showing the relative inelasticity of pricing in this class of products.
“While the company names that stuck out in 2017 as market-movers were HP, Carbon, GE and Monoprice, former and current market leaders such as Stratasys, EOS, EnvisionTEC, 3D Systems and XYZprinting also held their own in a strong 3D printer market. This shows that the market itself is growing and is no longer being marked simply by share shift,” notes Chris Connery, VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT. “This trend bodes well for the new year.”
Moving into 2018, all sectors seem poised for growth, with a rebound in the Industrial sector of particular focus for many. New movers like Desktop Metal are expected to make market headway and lead a wave of growth in a new category of low-priced metal 3D printers.