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Impressive growth for 3D printers

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Driven by soaring growth in a new Professional sub-category which straddles the traditional Industrial and Personal/Desktop markets, 3D printer shipments increased 38% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, according to market analyst Context.
At first glance, the market appeared to be driven by unit shipments in the Personal/Desktop space, which saw growth of 39%, while Industrial/Professional shipments slumped 6%. However, the new grouping reveals 64% growth year-on-year for 3D printers in the Professional category, outperforming another sub-class: personal sub-$2 500 printers, which increased by 36%.
Professional products can be found in both the Personal/Desktop and the Industrial/Professional markets, with a price range of $2 500 to $20 000. Leaders in this sub-class include Ultimaker, Formlabs, Leapfrog, MakerBot (Stratasys) and Markforged.
Meanwhile, Personal sub-$2 500 printers comprised the vast majority (85%) of the 200 509 printers shipped in the overall Personal/Desktop market in the first half of 2017.
“The Professional class of 3D printers has been emerging for some time now, coming both down from the high-end and up from the low-end, but it is now really coming into its own and merits separate analysis,” says Chris Connery, vice-president of Global Market Research and Analysis at Context. “As the market matures and grows, and price points in the Personal/Desktop market continue to drop, $5 000 is no longer the only defining barrier at the low end of the global 3D printing market.”
The global 3D printing market, which includes not only printer hardware, but also materials and services, is on track to be worth $5,6-billion in 2017 — an increase of 15% from 2016. That’s despite a relatively weak first half for the Industrial/Professional side of the market, which accounts for nearly 78% of all revenue in terms of hardware alone.
As the market shifts to focus on production, it is on track to reach $17-billion by 2021.
“The second half of 2017 will see a new crop of lower-priced metal printers ship, paving the way for a strong 2018 as metal continues to lead the industry,” says Connery.