Demand For 3D Printers Falls, Then Rises

By on January 14th, 2021 in Corporate

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Demand For 3D Printers Falls, Then Rises
A professional 3D printer, the MakerBot METHOD X [Source: Fabbaloo]

I’m looking at a report from CONTEXT, who provided some numbers for 3D printer sales in 2020.

CONTEXT is an industry analytics firm that provides market intelligence, business analytics and opportunity analysis. They cover a number of industries, one of which is 3D printing. Recently they issued a release with some of their findings for 2020’s 3D printer purchases.

2020 was, as we all know, a rather unusual year. It began quite normally, but then quickly changed into lockdown mode in many countries. In the East, countries mostly recovered rapidly due to stringent methods and were up and running in a few months. In the West, things were different. Longer, but less stringent lockdowns eventually yielded to degrees of opening things up. But towards the end of the year things were tipping the wrong way in many Western jurisdictions.

In this topsy-turvy environment, 3D printer manufacturers had to sell their equipment.

According to CONTEXT, industrial 3D printer sales more or less followed the COVID-19 lockdown pattern: sales collapsed early on, but recovered later when countries opened things up. They report “double-digit” increases in Q3 over Q2 for companies including 3D Systems, Carbon, EOS, HP, Markforged, Roboze and Stratasys, while Farsoon, HBD and UnionTech had already recovered in Q2.

Professional 3D Printer Growth

CONTEXT reports a very interesting finding regarding professional 3D printers: several manufacturers experienced “double-digit” growth in 1H2020 over 1H2019, including Markforged, Photocentric, Raise3D and MakerBot. This is due to the work-at-home phenomenon, where designers required a 3D printer on hand to enable work to continue efficiently.

My suspicion is that this category will continue to grow as the work-at-home paradigm is likely going to persist well after the pandemic ends. In fact, we may see future professional 3D printers equipped with features specifically designed for work-at-homers.

In the Personal 3D printer category, CONTEXT had some interesting observations. They report that 79% of sales were for FFF-style equipment, but that resin 3D printers grew by an amazing 42% over 2019. They specifically mention Phrozen and Longer 3D as being leaders in this category, but there are dozens of others likely adding to the total.

The New 3D Printer Kits

A surprising finding is that the proportion of unassembled 3D printer kits “continued to take share from fully assembled printers”. They say that Creality is “far and away the global leader in terms of unit volumes” for personal 3D printer kits.

This is a fascinating finding to me, as there was a time years ago when 3D printer kits were much different, and generally something to be avoided. Then, a “kit” was literally bags of nuts, bolts and wires, and you had to bring your own soldering iron to put it all together. The resulting assemblies were all slightly different, leading to challenges in sharing print profiles. Because of this there was a shift to fully assembled machines to avoid inconsistencies.

However, the CONTEXT finding suggests that the needle has swung the other way. Having “built” several recent 3D printer kits myself, I think I know the answer. Today’s “kits” are not really DIY projects. They are essentially fully assembled units that are segmented for optimized shipment costs. In other words, you bolt two flat parts together and you’re done. If you want to call that a “kit”, sure, but really it’s 95% assembled out of the box.

Let’s hope 2021 is better than 2020.


By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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