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New « Professional » Class Drives Impressive 38% Growth for 3D Printers in H1 2017

3D printer shipments increased 38% year-on-year in the first half of 2017, driven by soaring growth in a new Professional sub-category which straddles the traditional Industrial and Personal/Desktop markets, according to market analyst CONTEXT. At first glance, the market appeared to be driven by unit shipments in the Personal/Desktop space, which saw growth of 39%, while Industrial/Professional shipments slumped 6%. However, the new grouping reveals 64% growth year-on-year for 3D printers in the Professional category, outperforming another sub-class: personal sub-€2,200 printers, which increased by 36%. Professional products can be found in both the Personal/Desktop and the Industrial/Professional markets, with a price range of €2,200-€17,000. Leaders in this sub-class include Ultimaker, Formlabs, Leapfrog, MakerBot (Stratasys) and Markforged.

Meanwhile, Personal sub-€2,200 printers comprised the vast majority (85%) of the 200,509 printers shipped in the overall Personal/Desktop market in the first half of 2017. "The Professional class of 3D printers has been emerging for some time now, coming both down from the high-end and up from the low-end, but it is now really coming into its own and merits separate analysis", said Chris Connery, vice-president of Global Market Research and Analysis, CONTEXT. "As the market matures and grows, and price points in the Personal/Desktop market continue to drop, $5,000 is no longer the only defining barrier at the low end of the global 3D printing market."

New Global Leader Emerges

Q2 2017 also saw the emergence of a new leader in the Personal/Desktop segment: Monoprice, which enjoyed year-on-year shipment growth of over 450% for the quarter and shipped 19% of the quarter’s 107K units. Monoprice's meteoric rise to the top is even more impressive because the firm's sales have initially been confined to one region: the United States. Throughout the first half of the year, it was neck-and-neck with the former number one vendor, XYZprinting, in terms of global market share. Monoprice continues to set the bar for entry-level price points with a weighted average price for its products of €245 in Q2 2017, compared to €350 for XYZprinting. However, XYZprinting is not sitting idle and launched a new colour desktop printer in the period. Along with Monoprice and XYZprinting, other global rising stars through the first half include Wanhao, Formlabs Prusa Research, Dagoma and Markforged: all of which saw year-on-year shipments grow above 50%.

In the Industrial/Professional market, many publicly traded companies – most notably Stratasys and 3D Systems – saw unit volumes decline again in 1H 2017, even while unit shipments rose for the likes of EOS, GE Additive, Carbon and HP. However, several high-profile players have stated this is due to execution rather than demand issues, leaving many still feeling bullish for the second half of the year. All manufacturers have continued to champion the use of 3D printing for mainstream production. However, although metal 3D printing has already turned that corner, the plastics side of the industry is still largely stuck using the technique largely for prototyping. Yet to come are new solutions from market leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems in the form of their respective Infinite Build and Figure-4 systems and momentum for hot players like HP and Carbon is just now building.

Outlook: 2017 and Beyond

The global 3D printing market, which includes not only printer hardware but also materials and services, is on track to be worth €4.8B in 2017 – an increase of 15% from 2016. That’s despite a relatively weak first half for the Industrial/Professional side of the market, which accounts for nearly 78% of all revenue in terms of hardware alone. As the market shifts to focus on production, it is on track to reach €14.5B by 2021. "The second half of 2017 will see a new crop of lower-priced metal printers ship, paving the way for a strong 2018 as metal continues to lead the industry", noted Connery.