With recent furor over 3D printed guns, we started wondering exactly how many people could actually produce them on their 3D printer. In other words, how many personal 3D printers exist?
It's very difficult to cite any specific number, mainly because the major manufacturers are very tight with statistical information. MakerBot used to leak numbers years ago, but they have not done so recently. Open source plans can be downloaded and constructed without any counting.
Nevertheless, we'll take a guess. According the Terry Wohler's most recent report on the state of 3D printing, some USD$40M was spent on "low cost" 3D printers in 2012. But how many 3D printers would this represent? If we look at the pricing of the two most popular personal 3D printer models, 3D Systems' Cube and MakerBot's Replicator 2, we find prices of USD$1299 and USD$2199 respectively. These prices are typical; other offerings from smaller vendors are either higher and lower than each.
If we took an average of those two prices, USD$1749, and divide that into Wohler's USD$40M, we find that somewhere north of 20,000 units sold in 2012. We expect that these numbers are much higher in 2013 due to massively increasing public interest. Could we say 50,000 units in 2013? More?
Prior to 2012 sales were significantly lower. We would guess 75-100,000 units in total were sold in years up until 2012. Adding these two together suggests we probably are looking at something close to 200,000 personal 3D printers in existence today.
That's not all that many, considering the size of the market. There's a great many people in the world, and in coming years we expect millions of personal 3D printers to be sold.