3D Hubs once again released their quarterly report today, and as always there are interesting observations.
If you’re not familiar with them, the company operates a 3D “making network” of independent participants that offer use of their making equipment to the public via transactions routed through 3D Hubs. The company started in 2013 with a small and rapidly growing network of largely hobby-level desktop 3D printers, but has morphed over the years into a globe-spanning network of industrial 3D printers and now CNC milling equipment as well.
Their transaction load is significant, and the mandarins at 3D Hubs pull out all kinds of interesting statistics about usage and in particular ratings of machines and practices. Each quarter they publish a report of their findings, and each time they do this I quite enjoy perusing the stats to identify interesting trends. Let’s see what’s hidden in this quarter’s report.
3D Hubs divides the 3D printers into two major categories, “Industrial” and “Desktop”, which makes much sense due to the significant differences between the two.
In the Industrial category, all of the top ten rated printers – which indicates the user perception of print quality – are NOT plastic extrusion. All of the top ten are SLS, SLA or HP’s MJF processes. The complete absence of industrial filament-based equipment (typically Stratasys’ FDM process) suggests that surface detail could trump part strength properties in the minds of some users.
But that was a quality measure. Perhaps the FDM equipment is frequently used, but not rated as highly on quality?
Nope. FDM equipment does not appear on the “Most Used Industrial Printers” list either. Most of 3D Hubs’ industrial 3D prints seem to be NOT from FDM-style equipment.
What does this mean? FDM technology used to be one of the prime means of 3D printing.
I suspect it suggests that since Stratasys’ patents expired a few years ago, large numbers of competitors have emerged, some with very capable products and services. It may be that larger numbers of users are receiving their FDM-style prints from alternative providers – that appear in 3D Hubs’ Desktop report.
Indeed, all but one of the most used Desktop 3D printers on 3D Hubs’ list are in fact FDM-style equipment. And none are from Stratasys, or even Stratasys’ subsidiary, MakerBot.
While Stratasys’ business is said to be growing slowly, it could be that the market for FDM-style 3D printing has significantly grown, but that Stratasys has not been able to harvest much of it. This is not so surprising when one considers the cost of alternative FDM-style 3D printers is often a fraction of the cost of Stratasys equipment and materials. It now makes even more sense that Stratasys would be experimenting with opening new markets for their equipment with the recent release of several new demonstrator machines.
What else is in the report? The Desktop report confirms our suspicions that two vendors seem to be taking over: Prusa Research and Formlabs, whose equipment represents well over half of all the 3D Hubs desktop 3D printing activity.
We’ve heard that Prusa is selling vast quantities of equipment, and it’s definitely showing up in this report. Formlabs deserves to be there as well, having one of the easiest to use machines we’ve ever encountered.
What else? There’s one more very important statistic: the most popular color for 3D prints is STILL black. Come on, folks, let’s get more creative!
Via 3D Hubs