Industry consultant SmarTech has produced a report focusing on low-cost 3D printers and makes claims about the desktop 3D printer market.
The report indicates there is growth available to companies marketing desktop 3D printers in coming years, but particularly when sold to professionals, such as designers, engineers and architects.
This is a movement I’ve personally seen several companies make, each of whom has realized there is little growth potential in the consumer / hobby space. Sure, there was a lot of growth in that market in past years, but it was a mirage due to these reasons:
The market was quite small, starting from zero, literally, and thus even small quantities of units sold were seen as significant percentage growth statistics. It’s a lot harder to maintain high-percentage growth as the base increases.
The style of consumer equipment marketed was, from a consumer point of view, generally unreliable, difficult to operate, challenging to find appropriate content, nearly impossible to repair, and often frustrating. Thus the market for such equipment was limited to those individuals who enjoy this type of challenge. However, that’s a relatively small proportion of the entire market.
Finally, there was a small explosion of inexpensive desktop units that were (and are) largely identical in function and capability – and frustration.
Too much competition, not enough market.
The solution chosen by several leading desktop 3D printer companies has been to focus (in some cases exclusively) on vertical markets that are willing to put up with the operational challenges to gain value for their industries. This includes educational markets, professionals, designers and architects. SmarTech’s research seems to justify this.
But there’s a curious statement in their page:
Consumer markets: Although the true consumer 3DP market is not here yet, SmarTech continues to believe that consumer 3DP is far from dead.
Really? Most the major desktop manufacturers have shifted their attention elsewhere (to professionals), with the exception of ultra-low cost producers such as XYZprinting.
It may be that there is still a relatively small business opportunity to sell these ultra-low-cost units, but that’s going to pay off hugely until someone figures out a way to have true consumers use these machines effectively.