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3D printer shipments 'to double' in 2015

Gartner predicts worldwide shipments of 3D printers to reach 217,00 units

3D printer shipments 'to double' in 2015
There is "significant" worldwide consumer adoption of sub-$1,000 3D printers, Gartner said.

Worldwide shipments of 3D printers are set to more than double in 2015, reaching 217,350 units up from 2014's figure of 108,151, according to the latest forecast from Gartner.

Indeed, Gartner predicted that 3D printer shipments will more than double every year between 2015 and 2018, by which time the research house believes shipments will reach more than 2.3m.

"As we noted last year, the 3D printer market is at an inflection point," said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner.

"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 poised to increase dramatically beginning in 2015."

However, as radical as the forecast numbers may seem, Basiliere said that the industry should bear in mind that even the 2.3m shipments in 2018 will constitute a small fraction of the total potential market.

Gartner said that seven technologies make up the 3D printing market, with material extrusion leading the market's growth through to 2018. This is due to the "significant" worldwide consumer adoption of sub-$1,000 3D printers, Gartner said. For consumers, the research house advised, the primary drivers are lower prices, improved performance and expanded availability.

However, on the enterprise side, Gartner said that the main 3D printer market drivers are the viability of 3D printing technologies for prototyping and manufacturing, as well as lower 3D printing costs, improved quality and a wider range of materials.

"The high material extrusion shipment growth numbers are basically driving the 3D printer forecast," said Basiliere.

"New providers are entering the market, sometimes directly, sometimes through crowdfunding campaigns, on what seems like a daily basis. These providers are leveraging the expiration of early extrusion technology patents to make low-cost, low-priced devices targeted mainly at consumers." 

Gartner predicted that end-user spending on material extrusion technology will increase from $789m in 2015 to around $6.9bn in 2018. Overall, end-user spending on 3D printers is expected to increase from $1.6bn in 2015 to around $13.4bn in 2018 with technologies such as vat photopolymerisation and material jetting leading this growth due to expanded acceptability within the consumer and enterprise markets, Gartner said.

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