Industrial/Professional 3D-Printer Shipments Set for Growth as HP Inc., GE Move Into Global Top Five

HP Inc.’s 3D-printer customer lab.

London-based market-research firm Context reports that industrial 3D-printer shipments are set for growth in the second half of 2017 as GE and HP Inc. move into the global top-five market players.

This follows several consecutive years of unit-shipment decline for industrial/professional 3D printer, states Context. It says industrial/professional systems  generally sell for $5,000 and higher.

Chris Connery, vice president of Global Analysis at Context, commented: “We saw a 4-percent decline in the number of industrial/professional 3D printers shipped in the second quarter of this year compared to the previous year, but the average selling price of these machines continued to climb. It now seems that both these trends will change in the second half of 2017. Average selling prices are set to drop with the shipment of new category of lower-priced metal-printing machines helping to promote new growth. For polymer (plastics) 3D printing, growth is expected from select technologies as this side of the market continues to penetrate into the manufacturing market and away from just prototyping.”

As buyers focus on key end-of-year events such as November’s Formnext trade show, Context says there are two new vendors among the top-five market players by revenue derived from 3D printers. Measured in these terms, GE Additive is now the world’s third-largest company, and HP Inc. has entered the top five for the first time having begun shipments only at the end of last year, with great growth still expected in the second half of the year.

GE Additive focuses on metal 3D printing, while HP initially focuses on polymers. They join long-time industry stalwarts Stratasys (predominantly polymers), EOS (both metals and polymers) and 3D Systems (both metals and polymers). For second quarter 2017, the printer market continued to be dominated by Polymer 3D printers, which accounted for 90 percent of shipments and 61 percent of printer revenues.

*Industrial/professional 3D printers that generally sell for $5,000 and higher.

According to Context, newcomer GE Additive emerged in 2016 when GE Aviation acquired leading metal-printing machine producers Concept Laser and Arcam. The new collective is said to be spearheading the growth of metal additive manufacturing with this technology already “making great inroads into manufacturing.” GE joins EOS and SLM Solutions in leading growth in the second half of 2017. Evidence of mounting demand can be seen by way of the announcement from SLM Solutions (the number-three metal 3D-printer company) of its largest-ever single order. Joining the top metal AM producers will be lower-priced metal 3D printers from the likes of OR Laser and Desktop Metal, also reporting great demand.

While Stratasys and 3D Systems continue to lead the market in polymer-system sales (along with EOS, which offers both polymer and metal systems), HP began pushing strongly into the channel in the first half of the year, setting itself up for further growth later this year and beyond. Through its new partnership with Deloitte, HP is said to hope to help polymer AM systems move from being predominantly used for prototyping into mainstream manufacturing.

Context expects market leaders Stratasys and 3D Systems to commercialize their next evolutions of production-level 3D printers, with former start-ups such as Carbon continuing to innovate with high-profile partners such as adidas, with HP set to introduce new colour polymer and new metal 3D-printing technologies and platforms ,and with GE, SLM, EOS and others continuing to lead the growth of metal 3D printing into mainstream production.

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