The first three months of 2017 saw both worldwide shipments and revenues in the 3D Printer space increase, with activity ramping up in the mid-market, according to market research firm Context.
Shipments were up by 16% in Q1 2017, driven by gains in the Personal/Desktop category, which saw unit volumes rise to over 88 000 (up 17% year-on-year). The news was less positive in the Industrial/Professional sector, which saw 8% fewer shipments than a year ago.
Overall, global 3D printer revenues were up by 4% in the first quarter, thanks to stronger demand for high-priced metal-based industrial printers.
Although unit volumes in the Industrial/Professional category shrank, a rise in the weighted average price – from $111 241 to $128 549 – ensured revenue growth of 6%.
On the other hand, revenues in the Personal/Desktop category were down by -1% due to a year-on-year weighted average price drop from $1 142 to $970 in Q1 2017. This sector continues to be dominated by lower-priced printers, with 75% of shipments being of models priced at or below $1 000.
While the high and the low end of the 3D printer space are clearly defined, the market is currently seeing a lot of action in the grey middle ground.
“Since the desktop 3D printer market began to emerge as a new category a decade ago, the $5,000 barrier has been used as the general rule-of-thumb dividing point for categories,” says Chris Connery, vice-president of Global Market Research and Analysis at Context. “As the 3D printer market continues to evolve, so too do its categories, with high-end desktop printers and low-end industrial/professional printers converging more and more.”
Products from both categories in the blurry price range of $3 000 to $25 000 saw unit volumes rise +31% compared to a year ago, while sub-$3 000 desktop 3D printers saw unit volumes increase by 17%.
In the low-end of the Personal/Desktop segment, XYZprinting and Monoprice continued to price aggressively and remained leaders in terms of global unit share. At the high end of this segment are vendors like Ultimaker and Formlabs whose continue to balance between pricing and unit volumes serves them well, leading to the top spots in global revenue share of the Personal/Desktop category.
In the Industrial/Professional market, companies with a major focus on metal 3D printing, including EOS, SLM Solutions and Concept Laser (now mostly owned by GE), continued to shine in Q1 2017. Stratasys and 3D Systems both saw fewer printers ship in the period than a year ago.
High-profile player Carbon continued to grow, and announced a strong alliance with German apparel company adidas to mass-produce parts of a new line of running shoes, a common theme for many in the Industrial sector during the period.
Market leader Stratasys is a microcosm of how lines between categories are blurred. It’s technically placed on the Industrial/Professional side of the market; however, its lower-end professional material-extrusion printers continue to give way to high-end desktop products including its own MakerBot line.
Along with footwear alliances and blurring lines in the Professional 3D Printer space, other hot-button market trends in the period included lower-priced metal printers (such as from Desktop Metal and OR Laser) and serial production/printer farms, such as Stratasys’ Continuous Build 3D Demonstrator, 3D Systems’ Figure-4, and Formlabs’ Form Cell.
“While all the talk in the industry over the period was around sneaker alliances, lower prices and forthcoming technologies, in the first phase of the year the market was still largely driven by continued strong growth in shipments of metal 3D printers,” notes Connery.