Across the region, 3D printing is expected to become mainstream for businesses by 2018.
Today however, in following the hyped up path of the Internet of Things, the channel remains challenged by an immature market.
Naturally, this will evolve in time, and naturally, partners will find new ways to profit from a disrupted printing market, but in 2017, a lack of clarity remains.
As reported by ARN, worldwide shipments of 3D printers reached 455,772 units in 2016, more than doubling the 219,168 units shipped in 2015.
Despite slowing growth rates after the market's initial growth spurt, Gartner findings suggest that the increase in 3D printer shipments over the next four years will see the number of units shipped in 2020 total more than 6.7 million.
In short, the channel is overseeing a market rapidly changing from niche to mainstream.
But if 3D printing does hit mainstream in Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) in 2018, what are the other key trends that will impact and shape the development of the market during the coming years?
“The expiration of several key 3D printing patents in recent years has led to technological advancements,” IDC Asia Pacific market analyst, Mun Chun Lim, said.
“Applications for 3D printing will eventually extend beyond rapid prototyping in manufacturing and healthcare especially.
“Consumers are now more educated and will seek benefits of incorporating 3D printing into different areas.”
With supportive government policies and continuous drive from countries like China, South Korea and India - not so much Australia or New Zealand - IDC predicts that 3D printing will eventually become a mainstream market by 2018.
“China will continue to be the frontrunner in 3D printing in the region,” Lim said.
“Manufacturers seeking ways of reducing dependency on traditional labor intensive processes in manufacturing will eventually see 3D printing play a major role in coming years and eventually become mainstream.
“Print service providers will continue to emerge and play an important role in the market offering complete 3D printing solutions and serving as a platform to pave the way for the exposure and adoption of 3D printing.”
Importance of channel alignment
By 2018, IDC predicts that there will be 30 per cent fewer 3D printer companies in the market than there are today.
Regionally speaking, the 3D printing market has seen growth in merger and acquisition activities, prompting the belief that such activities will continue to increase in the coming years, thus emphasising the importance of industry alignment.
“Consolidation is a good sign that an industry is maturing,” Lim added.
“Established companies will continuously adopt new technologies by acquiring specialised and potential company in the market to provide differentiation and value proposition to the market.”
Specific to verticals, Lim said the medical sector is poised to have the strongest growth in APEJ with “positive encouragement” from the government on the compatibility and acceptance of 3D printing incorporated into the medical sector.
Consequently, IDC predicts that in the medical sector, the use of 3D printing to produce customised exoskeletons in APEJ region will eventually take place at the same pace as worldwide in 2018.
“High cost involvement, homogenous design and high recurring maintenance cost has seen low penetration of traditional functional exoskeletons in this region,” Lim added.
“But with 3D printing, it has enabled a new dimension on producing affordable, functional, customisable prosthetic hand and arms as compared to the traditional way of produce.”