g12Gartner, the leading information technology research and advisory company, has been covering 3D printing for some time now. They, just like many others within the industry, have a rather rosy outlook for additive manufacturing technologies, predicting rapid growth over the next four years.

There is no doubt that, spurred on by internet crowdfunding platforms, as well as a significant drop in prices, the desktop 3D printing market is on a swift upward trajectory. This year alone, Gartner estimates a total of 108,151 3D printers will be shipped, while next year’s shipments will more than double to 217,350. This exponential growth will continue as shipments will continue to double annually, reaching more than 2.3 million by 2018, according to Gartner’s report.

Pete Basiliere

Pete Basiliere

Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, believes that patent expirations may be the leading cause of the recent explosion within the desktop 3D printing market, noting that various expirations have led to a significant rise in competition and a subsequent drop in prices. These price drops will probably level off soon, before once again continuing their declines going into 2018.

“Manufacturers will strive to add features and improve performance in the first few years rather than reduce the prices of printers,” stated Pete Basiliere. “Therefore, the average selling prices (ASPs) of a few technologies are expected to increase or to gradually decrease in the outer years after an increase in 2014 or 2015. Directed-energy deposition printers are the most highly priced, followed by powder bed fusion printers. The ASPs of material extrusion and vat photopolymerization printers are expected to decrease as more and more players enter the market with offerings in the lower price bands within these two technologies.”

Gartner estimates that 11.6% of printers sold in 2014, which fall into the $1 to $2,500 price range have gone for under $1,000. They believe that this percentage will rise to 28.1% by 2018 as the competition heats up even more. Additionally, Gartner believes that plug-and-print capabilities will be inherent in many more devices by 2016, estimating that 10% of printers sold which cost under $1,000 will have such capabilities. By ‘plug-and-print’ they refer to automated bed leveling, heated build platforms, and proprietary filament which is suited for each particular machine, ensuring perfect compatibility.

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“This trend will accelerate as the market consisting primarily of early adopters who grew up with an open-source approach without lock-ins evolves into a market in which average consumers dominate,” said Mr. Basiliere. “While the early adopters will rage at the perversion of the 3D printer open-source ethos, the vast majority of mainstream consumers will demand the simple and consistent operation that ‘plug and print’ can provide them.”

Gartner’s estimates certainly bode well for the entire industry, especially when considering the fact that they believe 3D printer sales in 2018 will be 20X greater than they are this year. Such growth should lead to the creation of numerous new companies, jobs, and earnings within the industry. Do you agree with their assessment? Let’s hear your thoughts in the Gartner 3D Printer Market forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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