There seems to be a tide of professional industry reports on the 3D printing industry emerging lately, but I am very suspicious of the quality of some.
While there are many very reputable professional reports, produced by long-term companies who employ experts in the field - and I personally know some of them and would trust them to create accurate material - there are others who, I suspect, see the emerging interest in 3D printing within industry as an opportunity to sell more reports, but without the necessary expertise to produce them.
Such industry reports are typically not useful to individuals; instead they are used by companies to easily keep track of their industry as a whole, understand likely buying patterns by geographical area, see their position within the large market or observing their competitors’ moves. A 3D printer manufacturer, for example, would find such information quite valuable when planning strategies. Most smaller equipment manufacturers wouldn’t have the time or resources to produce such information, so they simply buy it from suppliers of these professional reports.
And that leads to the advertisement I saw from Apex Research, entitled “Global Commercial Grade 3D Printer Market Professional Survey Report 2017”, which is described as:
This report studies Commercial Grade 3D Printer in Global market, especially in North America, China, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan and India, with production, revenue, consumption, import and export in these regions, from 2011 to 2015, and forecast to 2021.
Sounds very reasonable and would likely be of interest to a 3D printer manufacturers contemplating sales in one of those regions. They’d be able to find out more about what to expect and make appropriate plans.
The report description goes on to list a number of very strange features, including:
"Objet (Stratasys)". Stratasys acquired Objet in 2012, five years ago. No one calls the company Objet anymore; the Objet brand is relegated to a particular line of products within Stratasys.
There is a mix of products and company names, such as ProX (a product of 3D Systems, who are not listed), ExOne (a company) and others. Are they covering products or companies?
3D Systems’ ill-fated Cube is mentioned as one of the serious companies/products being covered. This is fine, except that the Cube was DISCONTINUED in 2015.
Another company (not product) listed is Solidoodle, who shut down operations last year. Why would this and the Cube appear in a professional report at all, when there are dozens of more capable companies to cover, such as Prusa, Airwolf 3D, Fusion 3 and many, many more?
One company listed seems a bit different than the others: Shaanxi Hengtong Intelligent Machine Co. I have not heard of this particular company previously, but it appears to be one of many reputable China-based manufacturers of industrial rapid prototyping equipment that has also branched into 3D printing equipment. I have no problem with this company on the list, but what about the dozens of similar companies in that region who have very similar product lines?
Finally, the report lists the different technologies covered in the report:
- FDM technology
- SLA technology
- SLS technology
- DMLS technology
- 3DP technology
- SLM technology
- EBM technology
(I should note that FDM is a trademarked name by Stratasys and applies only to their equipment, although it is often used by others to describe similar 3D printing processes.)
Do you notice that one interesting technology listed? “3DP Technology”. What is that? Aren’t ALL of these technologies “3DP”?
I don’t know about you, but when I purchase a report, I expect to have great confidence in the ability of the writer, as the purpose of my purchase is to gain knowledge I don’t have. Based on the strange descriptions in this report I have some doubts about the author’s knowledge of the 3D printing space. The lists of equipment, companies and technologies appears to be made by someone with only a cursory understanding of what’s actually going on in 3D printing.
And this is the final lesson: industry reports are a matter of trust. You must have trust in the abilities of the writers. If you don’t, try another alternative.