An industry report has been published that talks about the prospects for growth of 3D printing plastics. But what does this mean?
There’s been many forecasts for the sales of 3D printer units, but they all seem to miss one important characteristic: how much are these machines actually used?
To some degree, it doesn’t really matter how much they’re used, as the manufacturers of those machines have received their revenue when they make a sale.
On the other hand, usage of machines varies considerably. In fact, I have a suspicion that many of the early desktop 3D printer units sold during the wild craze of consumer 3D printing from 2012-2015 are likely sitting idle, their owners frazzled by jams, confusing software and unobtainable 3D models.
For those folks, usage of 3D printers is going to be low. Maybe zero. But the machine sale was made!
Now we have a report published by “Markets and Markets” that purports to predict the amount of 3D printing plastic to be used by 2020. They break down the plastic into Type (Photopolymers, ABS, PLA, Polyamide/Nylon, Others), by Form (Filament, Ink, Powder), by Application, by End-User Industry, and by Region.
I believe this forecast may indicate something about the expected usage of machines sold. But what do they predict?
Markets and Markets presents two scenarios:
- USD 692.2 Million by 2020, at a CAGR of 25.7% from 2015 to 2020
- USD 822.7 Million by 2020, at a CAGR of 34.6% from 2017 to 2020
Which one will be correct? Likely neither, and the answer will be in-between. Regardless, this research suggests something like one-third growth per year until 2020.
Does that match the growth rate of 3D printer unit sales? If plastic usage is higher, then we can expect the per-machine usage to be growing, and that’s good. If it’s lower, then we can expect people to be using their machines less. That’s bad.
My suspicion is that usage will grow, as there are a great many people currently investigating new ways to innovate using 3D printing; valid, financially feasible 3D printer applications can only increase from here forward. That says more plastic will be sold to people doing more things with their machines.