There is, without a doubt, more than one hurdle preventing larger numbers of consumers from bringing 3D printers into their homes. Desktop 3D printing technology is still quite new, and unfortunately it is not always especially user-friendly, especially if there is a jam or clog in the extruder. Material selection is still extremely limited, with often only a handful of materials available for a standard desktop printer. Not to mention the lack of consistent standards in the material market, which often mean that many of the filament options available to consumers aren’t always reliable. And of course, there is the price factor, as most popular desktop printers still cost well over $1,000, which is quite a bit to ask consumers to pay for a machine with a steep learning curve.
However, there have been some drastic improvements across the board industry-wide, as software is being developed to simplify the printing process, newer machines are setting new reliability and ease of use standards, and material options are finally starting to expand. While many of the top-end desktop printers remain priced out of the reach of new adopters, often climbing well above $2,000, there are now a whole bunch of new options for affordable starter 3D printers that are starting to change the dynamic of the industry.
Until recently more than 50% of the desktop 3D printer market was controlled by just two companies, 3D Systems and Stratasys. However both companies seemed to place a higher value on controlling market share than on innovation, which often stifles industry growth and keeps prices artificially high. It isn’t a coincidence that both companies seemed to take the brunt of the cooling desktop market in 2015. But with 3D Systems pulling out of the desktop market altogether, and Stratasys putting a reduced focus on its MakerBot division the field now seems wide open for new companies to fill in all that newly made room in the market.
According to a new industry report from global business and market research firm IBISWorld the recent price drops in 3D printing technology are likely to continue. The report estimates that 3D printing hardware prices are expected to drop by 6.4% across the board just in 2016. That is likely due to an influx of newer 3D printer manufacturers who are bringing higher quality machines and lower prices with them. In 2015, IBISWorld estimates that there were about 70 highly active 3D printer manufacturers and about 30 reliable printer and materials retailers and distributors in the industry. They expect that number to rise as even more new manufacturers are expected to jump into the market in 2016.
There are a lot of factors at play here, as interest in 3D printing causes raw materials and parts to start dropping in price, printer prices are also dropping accordingly. Additionally, increased competition from regions like Asia and India is putting pressure on US and European companies to further start reducing costs in order to keep up. As the technology becomes more commonplace, R&D costs are also starting to drop, making it more affordable to offer features that used to be considered premium options.
Several highly successful companies have recently managed to take big chunks out of the desktop market thanks to good quality and low cost 3D printer options that act as ideal introductory printers. Companies like Printrbot and their $400 Printrbot Play and XYZprinting and their da Vinci line of printers that range from $500 to $700 are some of the fastest growing 3D printer manufacturers in the industry.
Printrbot has always been a reliable 3D printer manufacturer thanks to the company’s commitment to high-quality, low-cost, low-frills printers, but their Play has been quite popular with new desktop buyers. The low price tag and high quality has made it a great option for personal owners looking to see what 3D printing has to offer. Alternatively, the da Vinci printers from XYZprinting have become a favorite for companies who are looking to experiment with adding 3D printing to their business tools without risking large amounts of money or the need to sign long and often expensive lease or service agreements.
The falling price tags and dropping development costs are making this an ideal time to enter the market, both as a consumer and as a technology developer. Higher quality 3D printing hardware for lower prices is making 3D printing an affordable alternative to conventional manufacturing methods like injection molding, and is reducing the cost of prototyping. While the industry’s two biggest players may not have been able to make the desktop market work, it seems that there are plenty of newer companies that aren’t having any problems. And for once, it is the consumers reaping the benefits. What do you think of these predictions? Discuss in the 3D Printer Prices May Drop forum over at 3DPB.com.
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