Veteran 3D printing hobbyists will have doubtlessly noticed a steady rise in the amount of available desktop 3D printers, and that’s happening for a good reason. According to market analysts SmarTech Markets Publishing, the consumer 3D printing market is growing at an explosive rate and is becoming increasingly competitive. As a result, the market for low-cost 3D printing could be worth as much as $4.0 billion by 2021, with $2.3 billion of that revenue generated by hardware and the rest by materials.
Though various other market analysts, including Gartner, have looked at the state of 3D printing market several times, SmarTech Markets Publishing actually specializes in providing industry analysis for the 3D printing sector. Their latest efforts have been focusing on low-cost 3D printing, which has resulted in a promising new report entitled Opportunities in Low-Cost 3D Printing: Technologies, Materials and Markets.
The report is especially focused on those market segments where SmarTech believes low-cost 3D printing will be successful. Among others, they have used their gathered data to set up ten-year forecasts on how the 3D printer hardware market will grow both in revenue and adoption rates, and have predicted how accompanying material (largely filament) shipments add to the market. In reaching their conclusions, the SmarTech has also closely looked at the 2015 market results, as well as the sales expectations and market strategies of companies that are set to earn money in the sector. This includes numerous well-known 3D printer manufacturers such as 3D Systems, MakerBot, Printrbot, Ultimaker, PP3DP, Zortrax, Flashforge, Solidoodle, Form 1, LeapFrog, XYZ Printing, Afinia, Robo3D and Type A Machines.
What they mostly saw were growth opportunities in a competitive market. 2015 was a good year for the low-cost 3D printer market, with 270,000 3D printers sold – 80,000 more than in 2014. That growth was especially driven by the adoption of 3D printing by larger (Fortune 500) organizations, such as Dell, Siemens, Caterpillar, Boeing and Ford. All are looking into 3D printing as a solution for faster (distributed) prototyping. Incidentally, the professional market for 3D printers (for architects and professional designers, for instance) is growing at a similar pace.
The results for big-name 3D printing companies were varied, however. Of course highly visible companies such as MakerBot and 3D Systems had mixed results over 2015, with the latter even ending its push into the consumer 3D printer market. In contrast, other names – such as RepRap, Ultimaker and XYZ Printing – have been growing very strongly, with RepRap becoming market leader in the low cost segment. Over the coming years, securing a market segment is only expected to become more difficult.
These patterns have led the analysists to conclude that the hardware market could be worth as much as $2.3 billion by 2021, with an increasing number of players taking a slice of that cake. That growth obviously affects the booming thermoplastic filament market as well, which could reach sales of around $1.5 billion by 2021.
Incidentally, some overlap between those segments has also been seen over 2015, with various manufacturers partnering with larger chemical companies to develop specialized filaments that match specific 3D printer properties and applications. That pattern is set to continue, SmarTech expects, with new and highly advanced thermoplastic filaments set to create new opportunities for 3D printer manufacturers. As a result, pricing in both market segments is expected to grow by an estimated 3.6 percent per year. The future of the desktop 3D printing, it seems, is looking bright.