3D printing, while still on the rise, has not yet fulfilled its market potential. As an industry it is bifurcating into 2 distinct areas: Industrial 3D printers and Desktop 3D printers. This division in directions has led to there being parallel industries with their own distinct advantages and growth rates. Let’s take a closer look at the recent developments in industrial and desktop printing industries.
93% of organizations that responded to a survey about their experiences with 3D printing have concluded that they consider it to a competitive advantage (Columbus, 2016). Additionally, 3 quarter of these organizations have confirmed that they plan to invest further resources into 3D printing. The main concerns of the organizations that have adopted the technology are that of accelerating their production speeds. The second concern listed is the ability to offer customized products.
Plastics are the most common materials being used for 3D printing. The most frequently used plastics are polyamides. The use of these particular materials can most likely be attributed to the need for cheaper raw materials and the demand for rapid prototyping. In second place among the most used materials are resins. Stratasys appears to be the most successful company in terms of revenue.
Currently, companies are trying to find solutions to the issue of quick and efficient metal 3D printing. This will be a boon for the various factories and foundries (Hitch, 2016). Experts like Gordon Styles are also predicting that technologies such as the HP Jet Fusion will revolutionize the speed of production, making them the strongest competitors on the market.
In comparison to the industrial 3D printing market, there was speculation among analysts that there would be a regression in sales of desktop printers after a very dry period in sales (Grunewald, 2016). The downward trend turned around enough to allay the skepticism of those in doubt of the industry’s growth potential. This was leading many to speculate that desktop may have become a one-time novelty. The trend turnaround may be a sign that the industry is ready to turn 3D printers into a lucrative household item.
Additionally, ‘Deloitte Poland 2016 3D Printing Market Outlook’ report claims that the quality of desktop printing is steadily but surely approaching that of its industrial grade counterparts (Businesswire.com, 2016). Quoting Businesswire, (2016) the report also states: “The prevalence of Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is fueling the growth of the desktop segment because it excels in areas that are most important for wide adoption including ease of use and cost effectiveness. Forecasts predict FFF to be the dominant technology, expected to account for 97.5% of all 3D printers (including also nonindustrial users) by 2019 in terms of shipments.” The following statement should be taken with a grain of salt as it is the independent opinion of a single company, though not unfounded.
Smaller 3D printer manufacturers picked up the slack, when the big companies scaled back production out of fear of that same regression. This has led to new entrants and a more competitive market overall. There was a 35% jump in metal based 3D printing and Desktop Printers (the ones priced below $5,000) drove a 14% increase worldwide (Alec, 2016).
Taiwanese company ‘XYZprinting’ appears to have the highest market share in terms of budget 3D printers. This will likely continue as they have unveiled a recent line of printers that range in prices below $300. This will, likely, further tighten the industry’s competitive nature and result in further lines of lower price range 3D devices. Similarly, a lot of smaller companies are focusing on the lower price ranges due to obvious capital constraints.
All in all, 2017 looks to be a landmark year for 3D printing. Consumer options for desktops will rise and new entrants will be tested in the market. Industrial printing will most likely remain steady. Desktops, while the more volatile market, will probably see a higher rate of growth overall (62% growth in 2015 and similar numbers expected for 2017) but the Industrial side will remain far more profitable by all current indications.