Worldwide shipments of 3D printers (3DPs) priced less than $100,000 will grow 49% in 2013 to reach a total of 56,507 units, a Gartner's forecast of the less than $100,000 consumer and enterprise 3D printer market said. Rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3DP technologies will drive enterprise and consumer demand. Gartner said that shipments will increase further in 2014, growing 75% to 98,065 units, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.
"The 3D printer market has reached its inflection point," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. "While still a nascent market, with hype outpacing the technical realities, the speed of development and rise in buyer interest are pressing hardware, software and service providers to offer easier-to-use tools and materials that produce consistently high-quality results."
In 2013, combined end-user spending on 3DPs will reach $412 million, up 43% from $288 million in 2012. Enterprise spending will total more than $325 million in 2013, while the consumer segment will reach nearly $87 million. In 2014, spending will increase 62%, reaching $669 million, with enterprise spending of $536 million and consumer spending of $133 million.
"As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing's potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations," said Basiliere. "In the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive."
3D printers have historically been sold in small quantities with most of the early additive manufacturing devices sold to the North America, Western Europe and Mature Asia Pacific regions - not coincidentally the countries where the major technology service providers were based. The number of printers that will be sold in these regions outpaces the numbers in the other regions by several hundred thousand units.
While the North American and Western European regions have so far dominated the market, Greater China's 98.8% CAGR will outstrip them by up to six points by 2017, said Gartner. In mature Asia Pacific countries, shipments of 3D printers are forecast to grow 52.1% in 2013 to reach 3,817 units and 70,295 units by 2017; while in emerging Asia Pacific markets, total shipments are expected to grow 55.7% to reach 1,643 units in 2013 and reach more than 14,800 units in 2017.
"In the last 12 months, India has seen a transformation in the 3D printing industry with the emergence of local 3D printer manufacturers. The country has a very vibrant 'maker' community, and many new entrants and hobbyists are developing 3D printer variations based on the open source RepRap initiative," said Zalak Shah, research analyst at Gartner. "In a developing country like India, 3D printing has huge potential and exciting opportunities which are being explored, like remote printing of products and recycling of household plastic waste for feeding the printers.
"The hype around consumer 3D printing has made enterprises aware that the price point and functionality of 3DP has changed significantly over the last five years, driving increased shipments beginning in 2014," said Basiliere.
3D printer prices will decrease during the next several years due to competitive pressures and higher shipment volumes, even after allowing for providers who will be offering devices with higher performance, functionality and quality that enable them to hold the line on pricing, said Gartner.
Gartner expects that by 2015, seven of the 50 largest multinational retailers will sell 3D printers through their physical and online stores.
"Office superstore Staples is already in the market, and other superstores and consumer goods retailers, such as Yamada Denki, are prime candidates to sell printers and finished 3D printed items. Their presence in the market will have an impact on average selling prices, forcing providers into low-margin sales of consumer 3DP by 2017," said Basiliere.