Tuesday, 29 September 2015 22:30

‘Boom’ growth forecast for 3D printer market

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‘Boom’ growth forecast for 3D printer market Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net/images

The worldwide 3D printer market is booming, with massive growth over the next five years as transformation takes hold and shifts from a niche market to a broad-based, global market of enterprises and consumers.

A new market report from research firm Gartner, forecasts that in mature Asia Pacific countries - including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and South Korea - shipments of 3D printer will grow from 12,110 this year to 243,000 in 2019.

According to Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3D printer technologies are driving both enterprise and consumer demand, with unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers increasing significantly.

"The 3D printer market is continuing its transformation from a niche market to broad-based, global market of enterprises and consumers,” says Basiliere.

Gartner points to the fact that historically, 3D printers were sold into the regions where they were made - North America, Western Europe, Japan and, more recently, China -  but Gartner now anticipates a major shift in this paradigm as Greater China, emerging Asia Pacific and mature Asia Pacific regions experience high 3D printer shipment growth rates.

The growth in these markets, according to Gartner, is driven by private-sector and public-sector organisations that recognise the threat that 3D printing poses to sectors “that rely on traditional manufacturing technologies for their sales and the potential to lose orders for high-value, short-run and customised products.”

This latest Gartner report forecasts that worldwide shipments of 3D printers will reach 496,475 units in 2016, up 103% from the predicted 244,533 units in 2015 – then more than double every year between 2016 and 2019, by which time worldwide shipments are expected to reach more than 5.6 million.

Seven technologies constitute the 3D printer market, says Gartner, with material extrusion forecast to lead 2015 shipments at 232,336 units, increasing to 5,527,493 units in 2019 (97.5% of the total) largely due to the sales of low cost, entry-level material extrusion printers.

Average selling prices (ASPs) vary by technology and market, and Gartner says each market has different dynamics, including the mix of devices, prices and buyer requirements that drive the average for all 3D printers in a given technology. Directed-energy deposition printers are the most highly priced, followed by powder bed fusion printers.

Worldwide shipments by price band are affected by the 3D printer technologies represented within them.

Of particular note, says Gartner, are the up-to-$1,000 and $1,001-to-$2,500 bands, which are dominated by material extrusion devices, while 3D printers costing less than $1,000 will make up 25.5% of the total of these two price bands in 2015, but will grow to 40.7% of the $1-to-$2,500 range by 2019.

The primary market drivers for consumer 3D printers costing under $2,500 are not household purchases but acquisitions of low-cost devices by schools and universities, while Gartner says the primary enterprise 3D printer market drivers are the finished-piece quality and material advances.

"Enterprise 3D printers can not only prototype new products and produce tools and fixtures that are used to make other items, but also print high-quality, short-run finished goods.

“This multifaceted ability is driving their growth worldwide," Basiliere concludes.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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