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3D printing is set to take off

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Worldwide 3D-printer shipments are set to rise 39% in 2017 and show a 42% CAGR over the next five years according to the latest figures from Context.

Demand for personal/desktop printers continues to increase in the professional, educational and hobbyist markets and now, more and more, also from the low-end professional prototyping market.

Revenues from all printer shipments are forecast to show a five-year CAGR of 33% from 2016 to 2021 with industrial/professional printers continuing to drive market revenues (accounting for over 80% of global revenues) while personal/desktop printers drive unit volumes.

After not meeting forecast values in the last two years – and actually seeing two consecutive years of negative growth – the industrial/professional 3D-printer market looks set to rebound in 2017 and see 16% growth.

There were strong shipments of stereolithography systems at the end of 2016 and this trend is continuing into 2017. This is exemplified by the increasing sales from companies such as EnvisionTEC in the dental sector, and the announcement by Carbon that their technology is to be used in the production of a new line of Adidas running shoes.

Industry stalwarts like 3D Systems continue to champion the use of polymer systems in light production and their Figure-4 technology looks as if it will push further into the market in 2017. With continued strong demand in the aerospace, medical and automotive markets, metal 3D-printer makers GE Additive, EOS, SLM Solutions and others are on track to continue to build upon the momentum of 2016’s 18% rise in metal 3D-printer shipments.

Personal/desktop printers have yet to catch on with general consumers, but commercial and education users – as well as hobbyists – continue to drive this market which is still outpacing expectations, rising 32% from 2015 to 2016.

As low-end-professional extrusion printers shift into this category, there is additional demand from the prototyping market. Unit volumes continue to be dominated by plastic material-extrusion printers and this technology is set to continue to lead for the next five years.