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Desktop products driving 3D printer growth

Latest figures from Context indicate that last year was not great for the professional sector but was a strong year of growth for the desktop 3D printer category

Those who put their money on the 3D printing market taking off have had some of that faith repaid with the market closing out the year with strong growth.

The global 3D printer market improved by 19% in the fourth quarter of 2015, according to Context, with the desktop and personal product segment driving that growth.

There were differences between the desktop and the professional sides of the market with the more personal products enjoying 33% growth for the full calendar year compared to a 9% decline in 2015 for the industrial printers.

"This nascent side of the 3D printer market again saw great changes in 2015" noted Chris Connery, vp for global analysis at Context. "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."

Top 5 vendors in personal/desktop 3D printing

According to Context the top vendors according to market share are:

XYZprinting
M3D
Ultimaker
3D Systems
FlashForge

"Other brands look to capitalise 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," he added.

The growth in the market is unlikely to slow this year with more aggressive pricing coming from some of the existing vendors, as well as some activity promised from some fresh players like Polaroid.

On the professional side, with the big ticket devices that are aimed at manufacturing etc, there are some reasons to be optimistic with HP entering the market. There should also be more products coming out from other household names in the printer space, Canon and Ricoh.

Trying to pin down the category to a single product line or a list of just a few vendors is incredibly difficult as there are splits between the personal and professional and in the technology used by the different printers.

“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”, said Connery.

Top 5 vendors in the professional market

Context lists the top five vendors based on market share as:

Stratasys
3D Systems
envisionTEC
EOS
Mcor

“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)," he added.

In the next few years Context is forecasting the total global market for 3D Printing, which includes the hardware and materials and services will increase from $4.1bn in 2015 to $16.2bn by 2020.  

Most of the leading distributors have added 3D printers to the products they carry with some setting up dedicated units to champion the technology.

Although the market continues to be one populated by numerous vendors and the options for customers are quite varied there is a feeling that in vertical markets, particularly manufacturing and education, there is already a clear opportunity for the channel to pitch the products. 

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Users can already print gears for their cars, wheels for their bikes, and new body parts when their cars crash into their bikes. The field can only keep growing as techniques and materials advance. I would expect 3D printing to have the same game-changing effect on manufacturing as Photoshop did on the corner lab and desktop printing.
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