Leading additive manufacturing market research, analysis, and consulting firm SmarTech Analysis has published its latest quarterly advisory data services report, which is part of a 3D printing analyst service that lets companies access industry data at an extremely granular level. According to the report, the polymer portion of the market grew year-over-year by what’s been called a “modest amount,” and the numbers look pretty positive in the hardware segment for the rest of 2021; in fact, hardware sales were up almost 12% in Q1 of this year, so it seems that any negative impact from the COVID-19 pandemic last year has been minimal, which is pretty great news.
“With hardware sales being the backbone of the industry and always a leading indicator of future growth in other sectors of the value chain, SmarTech is encouraged that all of the continued investment and competitive landscape changes in the AM industry -including the polymer sector -will improve the overall long term outlook for the technologies, and the first quarter’s growth will accelerate further throughout 2021,” the company wrote.
That’s not to say that everything is perfectly fine—the polymer AM market only had single digit growth overall in comparison to the same period in 2020, right before the coronavirus threw the world, and our industry, for a major loop. This slow growth was mainly because print service revenues for polymer 3D printed parts stayed flat. Even so, this willingness to invest in AM companies, and their hardware, is positive, and indicative of a “market reset” which should see AM polymers exceed the levels we were seeing prior to the pandemic as the year continues.
Some interesting things to note from the report include continued strong market support for powder bed fusion in particular, and SmarTech believes this shows increased interest from customers in using polymer 3D printing for their manufacturing purposes. Given that the new polymer powder bed fusion product line from Stratasys is on the horizon, and voxeljet continues to develop competing processes, that seems to be a pretty fair assessment.
“The trend in M&A activity and industry consolidation, as well as moves to publicly held operating structures, reached what may be the peak in Q1 2021, which when taken in aggregate with those in the second half of 2020, will fundamentally alter the additive market going forward,” SmarTech noted in its report.
Additionally, the primary additive market, including hardware, material sales, and outsourced print services for both polymer and metal technologies, continued to grow at a steady pace during Q1, fueled mainly by hardware sales. SmarTech believes that, after the roughly 7% decline last year due to the impact of the pandemic, the total additive market revenue worldwide, if it stays on its current course, will exceed 2019 levels by the end of the year.
There are still plenty of challenges to overcome, like shipping issues and supply shortages, as the pandemic continues around the globe. This puts undue pressure on the AM industry’s ability to accelerate its growth while the main customer base is still being negatively impacted by COVID, even if these related issues are creating “net positive sentiments for additive manufacturing technologies in the future.” The bottom line here is that while polymer AM hardware sales have increased and appear ready to continue going up, we’re not out of the woods quite yet.
Since 2017, SmarTech’s quarterly advisory services reports track critical AM market metrics, which creates a database that allows subscribers to track segment performance and industry trends. This new report is available as a one-time purchase to non-subscribers through SmarTech’s website, and if you’re interested in a bigger commitment, you can learn more about the company’s ongoing subscription advisory services for the additive manufacturing market here.
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