3D Printing: A look at the market according to Google Trends

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gt2Way back in May, we did a story in which we used Google Trends to diagnose the growth rates within the 3D printing market. Since that time the market has certainly continued its rapid rate of growth. Here we are, seven months after our initial report, and I’ve decided to use Google Trends once again, this time to dive a bit deeper into the 3D printing industry.

A great way to gauge the general growth of the consumer market, is to look deeper into the 3D printer filament growth trends. Nine out of ten 3D printers which are in consumers’ hands today utilize filament as their main material source. As you can see, the number of searches for ‘3D Printer Filament’ have exploded in the last 12 months alone:

It’s really remarkable that just under two years ago, there were nearly no searches for ‘3d Printer Filament’ being performed. In the last 13 months alone, the total number of searches for this phrase has doubled. This rate of growth is very interesting in itself, however I thought it would be interesting to dive a little bit deeper into the filament space. Let’s compare searches for ‘ABS Filament’ vs. ‘PLA Filament’:

In late 2012, PLA filament seemed to have eclipsed ABS for the most searched for filament type. Things bounced back and forth for some time, prior to PLA pulling away as the leader about one year ago.

Now how about the various name brands of popular 3D printers? We all know that Ultimaker and MakerBot are likely the two leaders within the consumer segment of the market. How about some others though? Let’s take a look at how each of the following brands, MakerBot, Ultimaker, LulzBot and Formlabs are faring below:
Apparently MakerBot is continuing its dominance within the consumer segment of the market, with Ultimaker rising steadily as well. It even appears that Ultimaker may in fact be growing in popularity a tad bit faster as of late. The smaller FFF printer manufacturer, LulzBot, is still well behind the two major players in the industry, but is seeing steady growth as well. This leaves us with Formlabs, the manufacturer of SLA 3D printers, particularly their latest Form 1+. As you can see from the chart above, they too are seeing a steady increase in Google searches, with a major spike in October of last year. This spike likely corresponded with the release of ‘Print The Legend,’ a 3D printing documentary following the growth of their company as well as others. We would have loved to see where 3D Systems’ Cube line of machines would have fit into all this, but the chart was skewed because of the fact that ‘Cube’ is a popular noun.

Next, let’s turn our attention to some of the leaders within the additive manufacturing industry. Below we compare the search volumes between 3D Systems, Stratasys, voxeljet and ExOne:

We all know that there are numerous different types of printing technology on the market, both for consumers and manufacturers. We have Stereolithography (SLA), Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Electron Beam Melting (EBM). Below we compared the search volumes for each. It is important to note that FDM is the technology which is patented by Stratasys, and is often confused with Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) technology, so these numbers could be a bit skewed.

As you can see above, SLA technology is clearly gaining in popularity, especially over the last 7-8 months. EBM technology searches are pretty much non-existent, while FDM and SLS printer searches are growing at about the same rates. I would assume that if you could combine the searches for ‘FFF 3D Printer’ with ‘FDM 3D Printer’ you would find that segment to be the clear leader. It will be interesting to follow these charts over the next year or two as SLA technology continues to show its superiority to FDM/FFF technology in many areas.

Lastly, there are several interesting companies out there when it comes to unique 3D printer filament materials. Although there are many which we have left out, I decided to compare the search volumes of ColorFabb, Filaflex and NinjaFlex. Below are the results:

It appears as though NinjaFlex is the most popular in terms of search volume. Taking off at the end of 2013, the company has skyrocketed past the other two.  With that said, ColorFabb is seemingly keeping pace, with the recent launch of several new composite filaments. I am guessing that the last month of the chart is an error when considering Filaflex’s search volume. However, it does appear that they have sort of leveled off over the course of the last year.

Certainly all of these charts should be taken with a grain of salt, as there are several reasons for any of them to perhaps be skewed in favor of one term/phrase or the other. The purpose of this discussion is simply to get a general idea of where the market currently is, where it came from, and perhaps where it may be headed. Needless to say, regardless of any of these comparisons, the 3D printing space is on fire, as you can see from the searches below for the phrase ‘3D Print’. Let us know your thoughts on these trends in the 3D Printing Trend forum thread on 3DPB.com.


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