As desktop 3D printer sales started to soften at the end of 2014 and into 2015, many in the industry were predicting that the public’s love affair with 3D printing was over. The sense was that the industry would revert back to its focus on professional-grade 3D printers while desktop 3D printers remained a novelty. Not only did Stratasys, the largest 3D printer manufacturer in the world, scale back their MakerBot line in response, but their closest competitor 3D Systems retired the Cube and Cubify to exit the desktop market entirely. While this left a sizable gap in the market, it was quickly filled by smaller desktop 3D printer manufacturers with sales figures that seem to be suggesting that it may not have been 3D printing that the public had tired of, but the companies who were selling them 3D printers.
According to new sales figures released today by IT market research company CONTEXT, the market for desktop or personal 3D printers increased 22% year-on-year in the 4th quarter of 2015 and rose 33% overall for the year. The end of 2015 also saw Taiwanese 3D printer manufacturer XYZprinting extend its leading market share even further. Meanwhile, sub-$500,000 industrial and professional grade 3D printer sales were down 24% for the quarter and 9% overall for the year. At the same time metal 3D printing applications priced above $500,000 to $2,000,000 remained quite in demand, with the sector seeing a 35% jump in machines sold over last year.
According to the CONTEXT figures, all markets combined lead to actual worldwide shipments of 3D printers rising by 19% in the fourth quarter of 2015 compared to a year ago. Of the 73,012 total 3D printer units that were shipped in the final quarter of last year, 96% of them were sub-$5,000 desktop or personal printers, which was a 22% increase over last year. With 2,907 units in total shipped, the 24% drop in sales for the more expensive models of industrial, professional or commercial grade 3D printers was quite a noticeable drop.
“This nascent side of the 3D printer market again saw great changes in 2015. Companies with a long standing presence in the additive manufacturing market scaled back their expectations for this newer, desktop side of the market, retooling to concentrate more on their core B2B competences. Other brands look to capitalize on these refocused efforts, however with start-ups, toy companies, IT companies and tool companies all competing in the market from different angles, yet all looking to get a piece of the continued strong demand for these devices,” explained the VP for Global Analysis at CONTEXT Chris Connery in his industry report.
While the 2015 fourth quarter figures are dramatic enough, the entire year’s sales numbers show what an impact that last quarter had on the market. For 2015’s full calendar year, the 3D printer market saw an overall growth of 30% in terms of total printers shipped and 33% overall growth just for desktop and personal 3D printers, while 2015 also saw an overall drop of 9% in sales for industrial, professional or commercial 3D printers. It is likely that as the quality of desktop 3D printers has risen and prices have dropped, more small businesses are forgoing the more costly commercial 3D printers and their expensive service contracts for less expensive desktop options.
As expected, XYZprinting kept the top spot for global desktop 3D printer sales in the fourth quarter of 2015. They extended their market share up to 31% for the quarter and an impressive 21% for the entire calendar year. This coincides with the exit of 3D Systems from the desktop market and Stratasys scaling down MakerBot’s market presence. XYZprinting and other up and coming 3D printer companies like M3D, Ultimaker and FlashForge happily picked up the slack left by the industry’s larger manufacturers. The fourth quarter of 2015 also saw the largest crowdfunding campaign for a 3D printer ever with the Tiko 3D Printer Kickstarter bringing in nearly $3,000,000 in backing, pre-selling a total of 16,000 units.
Most of the growth in the desktop 3D printer market trended towards lower-priced 3D printers like the $179 Tiko 3D printer, the $349 Micro from M3D or the $399 Printrbot Play. CONTEXT said that they expect the trend of lower-cost 3D printers to continue in 2016, with XYZprinting already showing off their new $269 printer expected this year and toy maker Mattel releasing a sub-$300 printer by the end of the year. Big name brands like Polaroid are also expected to enter the low-cost 3D printer market with their own printers at some point in 2016.
“Since the 3D Printer industry consists of a wide range of prices for the various types of 3D Printing technologies, the market is often benchmarked not only on units, but also on revenue from the sale of printers. Doing so helps to show the growing importance of Metal 3D Printing overall with 2015 seeing three of the top five vendors all mostly concentrating on metal additive manufacturing (EOS, SLM Solutions and Arcam),” continued Connery.
Stratasys remained top dog on the industrial and professional side of the 3D printer market in the fourth quarter of 2015. They shipped 48% of all industrial and professional 3D printers in the fourth quarter, however they still sold 29% fewer printers than a year ago. While the industrial and professional side of the 3D printer market clearly struggled in 2015, the numbers may not be telling the full story. The CONTEXT report suggests that the sagging commercial market may simply be the industry holding back until several well-known brands finally bring their new printers into the sector. HP Inc will finally be releasing their hotly anticipated Multi Jet 3D printer this year, while Canon and Ricoh are also expected to reveal their new commercial 3D printers.
2016 is expected to continue the trend of the global 3D printer market expanding, with several healthy areas of the market continuing to grow. CONTEXT is predicting that the total global market for 3D printers, 3D printing materials, 3D printer accessories and 3D printing services will grow from a $4.1 billion industry in 2015 to a $16.2 billion industry by the year 2020.