Desktop 3D Printers Drive Global Market Growth +14% in First Half of 2016

Worldwide unit shipments of 3D Printers rose +14% in the first half of 2016 compared to a year ago, according to figures released by CONTEXT, an IT market research company. The sub $5,000 Personal/Desktop category, representing the major part of total units sold, grew +15% Y/Y, while shipments in the Industrial/Professional segment declined -15% over the same period.

“The 3D Printer market is now becoming more clearly segmented into the Personal/Desktop printer category and the Industrial/Professional category,” notes Chris Connery VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT. “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.”

In the Personal/Desktop market, XYZprinting remained a leader with a 19% share in H1’16 in spite of weaker Q2’16 global unit shipments.  Amongst the top 5 vendors, Ultimaker, M3D and Flashforge all saw notable Y/Y growth in unit shipments compared to the first half of 2015. Only Stratasys (Makerbot) shipments declined from last year.  And while Education and Engineering were key target markets for most brands, Hobbyists and Enthusiasts remained a large part of this side of the market.

Even though shipments in the Industrial/Professional sector, representing 78% of global 3D Printer revenues, declined -15%, revenues grew +3% during the first half of 2016 due to the continued strength and high price points in the Metal 3D printer market. Sector leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems meanwhile both saw sizable drop-offs in Y/Y unit volume shipments. “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.”

Metal 3D Printer growth continued in the first half of 2016 with unit shipments up +17%.  Looking ahead, this segment will be bolstered even further as GE doubled-down on their commitment to the technology by announcing plans to acquire metal 3D Printer companies SLM Solutions and Arcam AB, second and fourth in size respectively. GE announced that its Aviation unit will form a new business not only to produce metal 3D Printers for their own use (with the Aerospace and Automotive markets being two of the most successful adopters of Additive Manufacturing to date) but also plans to sell Metal AM Machines as well, creating an entirely new business for GE.

For the remainder of 2016, the Personal/Desktop sector is still on track to grow +35% in unit shipments compared to the previous year, despite Mattel delaying plans to revive the ThingMaker brand with a $299 3D printer originally slated for 2016. XYZprinting will offer a handful of printers under $300, and sizable crowdsourced pre-orders are still likely to ship in this calendar year.

On the Industrial/Professional side, with HP disrupting the market with their presence but yet to ship in volume, and even with newcomers like Carbon and RICOH looking to make up the difference in lost sales from established players, this side of the industry will be lucky to see any volume growth in 2016.

“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,” noted Connery.  “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.”

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