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​INSIGHT: 3D Printing - from niche to mass-market appeal

​INSIGHT: 3D Printing - from niche to mass-market appeal

The 3D printer market continues its transformation from a niche market to a global market of enterprises and consumers.

The 3D printer market continues its transformation from a niche market to a global market of enterprises and consumers.

Understanding this transformation is critical to not only 3D printer technology providers but also buyers and users who are faced with significant business disruptions.

Gartner forecasts 3D printer sales will grow at 72.8 percent CAGR through 2019, from almost $944.3 million to more than $14.6 billion in 2019.

The total number of 3D printers purchased per year is forecast to grow from more than 106,000 units in 2014 to more than 5.6 million units in 2019, a CAGR of 121.9 percent.

Our 2015 forecast, which does not include revenue from 3D printer supplies or service, includes printers ranging from a few hundred dollars to over $1 million.

The primary market drivers for “consumer” 3D printers costing under $2,500 is not household purchases but acquisitions of low-cost devices by schools and universities.

The primary “enterprise” 3D printer market drivers are finished piece quality and material advances.

Unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers - which languished in the low single and double digits per year throughout the 30 years since the first 3D printers were invented - are increasing significantly.

As forecast last year, we expect that the 3D printer market will have year-to-year growth rates of more than 100 percent beginning in 2015.

As radical as the size of the forecast numbers are, bear in mind that even the 5.8 million shipments that we forecast will be sold in 2019 are a small fraction of the total potential market of consumers, businesses and government organisations (including the military) worldwide.

Gartner continues to forecast that material extrusion will have a shipment CAGR of more than 100 percent from 2014 through 2019.

Yet while material extrusion accounts for vast majority of the 3D printer market shipments, it accounts for less than half of the market’s revenue.

Technologies that 3D printer manufacturers, research labs and universities are working on today and may become commercially available during the forecast period are not included in the forecast.

We expect they will have a major impact after 2019, perhaps sooner, but too little is known to quantify the impact. The uncertainty about their actual speed, quality, material range and pricing means we did not include potential sales by the likes of Carbon3D and HP in the forecast.

The 3D printer market is a classic example of the Gartner Hype Cycle - many years of low growth, sudden general media interest in the technology, tremendous hype about what the technology can and will do, then disillusionment as reality sets in, followed by viable use cases and global adoption.

The Gartner forecast of the 3D printer market worldwide is based on our assessment of the market’s supply drivers, competitive environment, printer cost, features and functions, government funding and initiatives, evolving business models, intellectual property issues, demand drivers, macro drivers and vertical industry demand.

Our market forecast triangulates information from 3D printer technology providers, desk research, and other primary and secondary resources.

Our sizing of the 2014 market drew on interviews with 3D printer providers, published company financial reports and publicly available market analyst reports.

By Pete Basiliere - Research Analyst, Gartner

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