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Personal 3D Printing Markets: 2014–2023:

Take a look at this excerpt from the first chapter of the report. Senior Analyst, Ian Forsyth will be addressing the key take-aways from this report at 9:30 AM ET on July 15. We hope you will join us!

Chapter One: Overview of the Opportunities In Personal 3D Printing [Extract]

1.1 A Shifting Personal Printer Landscape

No 3DP product segment is as exciting as personal printing. 2013 saw explosive growth that surprised even the most optimistic analysts. Equipment sales for 2013 increased nearly 32% to 46,800 printers. 3D Systems saw its consumer revenues triple from 2012, moving from $11.4 million to $34.8 million; MakerBot’s revenues also almost doubled, moving from $15.7 million to $24 million.

SmarTech’s outlook on the personal printing market has shifted over the last 12 months. A year ago, we were skeptical that 3DP could continue high growth in this product segment and become a true consumer product. Among other forces, we saw relatively expensive products that had limited capabilities and consequently were not being used by many people who bought them. We also saw that these systems still required a high level of CAD/CAM knowledge to use.

What a difference a year makes. Prominent 3DP equipment manufacturers have released a new generation of personal printers at drastically reduced prices. But despite these price reductions, the machines are more polished and easier to use. Powerful software solutions have lowered the knowledge barrier for using 3DP and encouraged more participation from a growing subscriber base.

Many people buying personal 3DP equipment are using it to produce products for home businesses. From some of the personal 3DP equipment companies we talked to, as many as 25% of their customers own multiple printers and are producing some sort of value-added product.

1.2 Is RepRap Going to Go Away?

Does RepRap have a prominent role in an increasingly commercial personal 3DP sector?

More than likely, the personal 3DP market has reached a point where commercial incentives will propel proprietary systems past open source systems as it did in the software market.  This is not to say that the RepRap project will go away. But RepRap is becoming less and less influential in the personal 3DP space as the consumer base for personal 3DP equipment is rapidly changing. RepRap has played a crucial role in the early 3DP industry by providing baseline technologies and allowing for accelerated product development. However, one can’t help but get the impression that RepRap will continue to take a side-seat to the larger force of proprietary commercial systems over the next ten years.

RepRap could still end up being a much larger part of the personal 3DP story if you believe that the Maker movement is different than just another dedicated user base. If you believe instead that the Maker movement is a shift in lifestyle and philosophy, then RepRap and open-sourcing could have second act down the road.

1.3 Crowd Sourcing’s Role In the Personal Printer Market

Crowdsourcing is at the center of the personal 3DP movement. Many start-up personal 3DP equipment manufacturers received their initial funding from the crowd sourcing sites Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  Historically, 3DP crowd sourcing projects are successfully funded around 50% of the time. The success of crowd sourcing projects gives the personal 3DP movement a kind of grassroots feel. It lends credence to the idea of 3DP for Makers by Makers.

Moving forward, the success rates of crowd funding will continue to draw 3DP entrepreneurs to crowd sourcing sites. More than likely, the number of 3DP related projects will increase over the next ten years. Entrepreneurs will continue to rely on crowd sourcing to fund the next generation of personal SL 3DP equipment, as well as materials, software, and product projects.

Crowd funding is an especially powerful tool for the Maker movement, as it enables a more egalitarian approach towards innovation and allows innovators to circumvent potentially restrictive sources of finance. However, with a few exceptions, the amount of the funding is not sufficient to establish serious business ventures right out of the gate.  Many of the funded projects fall short of making major impacts in the market. Many times, these are projects that end up being Maker projects, being funded by Makers, for Makers and have little consequence on larger markets.

Crowd funding has proven to be an important source of opportunities for VC firms. VCs have begun to aggressively target the most successful crowd funded projects, injecting the adequate capital and management into projects to build successful companies.

1.4 Personal 3D Printing in a Global Context
1.4.1 Personal 3DP in China

China boasts a lot of recent activity in the 3DP sector. However, most government and academic energies are currently directed towards more robust manufacturing applications as a way of augmenting their national manufacturing capabilities. Companies with a clear focus on the personal printer sector are still limited in number as the domestic market for personal 3DP products is still relatively small. A select few companies are securing their position in this space and positioning themselves well for future growth.

The personal 3DP market in China is currently dominated by two companies: Delta Microfactory Corp and Flashforge. Delta Microfactory Corp, a subsidiary of Beijing Tiertime, is the most established Chinese company in the personal 3DP area. Its Up! printer experienced initial success in Western markets as a relatively low cost, high performance, easy-to-use personal printer. Meanwhile, Flashforge is a relative newcomer that has quickly risen to prominence in the market. Having only opened shop in 2011, Flashforge now boasts monthly sales of over a 1,000 printers.

China’s rapid growth has opened up sizeable domestic markets for personal 3DP equipment centered around urban areas. These opportunities may pale in comparison to the current demand in Western markets, however Eastern markets still represent a sizeable opportunity and will experience rapid growth over the next ten years.

Meanwhile, Chinese manufacturers will find it continually harder to compete in the United States markets, and Europe to a lesser extent. This is a consequence of increased domestic competition in these markets. Many start-ups are quickly moving up the manufacturing experience curve and eroding Chinese companies’ competitive advantage in terms of print consistency. In an effort to defend its position, Delta Micro Factory recently rebranded itself in Western markets as Afinia.

1.4.2 Personal 3DP in Europe

Europe has been a hot bed of 3DP activity since the beginnings of the industry. Many 3DP kits are available from European countries. But despite its head start, European companies have relented scaling up and offering assembled, all-in-one systems. This may be a consequence of over-adherence to the principles of open-source, or may just be a lack of adequate funding. Seeing the direction the industry is headed, many European personal 3DP manufacturers have caught on and worked diligently to repackage their products to better match market demand. Many of the newest generation of printers represent the first generation of out-of-the-box 3DP products.

Europe has established a healthy number of personal 3DP manufacturers. Most of these companies continue to pay homage to their open-source roots, offering open and upgradeable systems. Many of these printers serve niche markets and utilize online marketplaces as their primary sales channel. In general, the appetite for personal 3DP in Europe seems to be more sporadic and niche-like. European consumers in this market are definitely more frugal when it comes to 3DP expenditures. Many European customers are also more adept at 3DP skills and are more likely to purchase equipment kits, source their own materials, etc.

Many personal printing companies are primarily focusing on developing their domestic customer base. Personal 3DP companies are able to better understand the needs of their domestic customers and serve them better than international companies. This is true in many industries, but is especially true for 3DP, since a lot of current equipment requires frequent maintenance.

1.5 Personal 3DP Forecast Overview

The graphic below summarizes our market forecasts for the worldwide personal 3D printer market until 2023.


 3D Printing Webinar On July 15th