2014 has been a banner year for the 3D printing industry. Major corporations like Autodesk and HP have entered the space, while consumers have been the beneficiaries of major price competition, meaning affordable consumer-level 3D printers for all. Despite all this, Gartner estimated back in October that a total of only 108,151 3D printers would sell in 2014. This is just a g3fraction of the market’s potential going forward.

Gartner has also estimated that 2015 would be a year in which worldwide 3D printer sales will double, to approximately 217,350 units. On the surface, these seem like very bullish numbers, and in fact they are when you consider the rate of growth. I, however, believe that Gartner, as well as other research firms, is underestimating the potential market in this upcoming year.

Below you will find out why I think 2015 will be a breakout year for the industry in general, and worldwide shipments of 3D printers will likely eclipse the numbers being predicted by various research firms and analysts.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo Projects from 2014 Begin Shipping

M3D's The Micro 3D Printer

M3D’s The Micro 3D Printer

If you have been following the staggering number of affordable 3D printers launching on crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, then you know how fierce the compeition has become. What may be bad for the companies manufacturing the machines is good for us as consumers, leading to price cuts, and thousands of machines being scooped up by the general public.

The biggest success story last year from a 3D printer crowdfunding standpoint was M3D’s The Micro. This printer alone took in over $3.4 million in funding, pre-selling over 11,000 printers. These printers will begin shipping in the early part of this year. The number of units shipped of this printer alone in 2015 will equate to over 5% of Gartner’s predicted total shipments for the year. But that’s not all. Who knows how many of these sub-$300 machines will sell this year once they are made available for direct purchase? Additionally, there have been a number of other companies who have also sold thousands of machines via crowdfunding, all of which will begin shipping later in 2015. New Matter pre-sold close to 2,500 of their MOD-t 3D printers on Indiegogo back in July, Flux Technology pre-sold 2,300 of their all-in-one machines last month on Kickstarter, and iBox pre-sold over 1,500 of their iBox Nano 3D printers in November on Kickstarter. This is just a handful of the crowdfunding success stories we covered in 2014, which will equate to thousands of units shipped in 2015.

Competition Heats Up — 3D Systems Launches New High Speed System, HP Prepares to Enter Market

3D Systems' new Racetrack-style 3D Printer

3D Systems’ new Racetrack-style 3D Printer

When HP announced that they would be entering the 3D printing industry earlier this year, there is no doubt that the large players within the industry such as 3D Systems and Stratasys stepped things up a level or two. Both companies will have approximately 18-24 months to develop faster, more robust 3D printing technologies before HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology comes to market in 2016. They both seem to be investing heavily into innovative new printing processes.

3D Systems, however, seems to have come up with a solution to the ’10 times faster’ claim that HP has made concerning their Multi Jet Fusion technology. They’ve been teasing a new 3D printing g5racetrack architecture which the company claims is capable of printing at speeds 50 times greater than what is available on the market today. According to 3D Systems, the new high speed printing process will be able to integrate almost effortlessly into the current manufacturing framework of companies who rely on other means of production. If the new architecture performs like 3D Systems believes it will, this will not only boost sales of industrial-grade 3D printers, but also push the competition to innovate further and perhaps reduce their prices.

There’s plenty of competition in both the consumer and manufacturing segments of the market, and we all know that competition generally leads to lower prices. When prices drop in an upcoming market, more people buy, and as more people buy, more competition enters the space.

Certainly Gartner and other research firms are aware of the direction of this market. I just feel that perhaps they have been a littler bit too conservative thus far. It will be interesting to look back at this article in twelve months and see just how the market has fared for the year.

Let’s hear your thoughts on where 2015 will take the 3D printing industry. Discuss in the 2015 Expectations forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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