Here’s what 30 years of 3D printer shipments looks like

In its most recent report, market intelligence company CONTEXT shared how “strong interest and pent-up demand” would be the driving force behind an expected post-pandemic bump in 3D printer shipments in 2021. It follows a year of falling sales for certain classes of 3D printing hardware as regional quarantines took their toll on the industry during the height of the pandemic. 

But prior to those disruptions, additive manufacturing hardware sales had continued to grow with sales in metal technologies soaring in recent years. Here, CONTEXT takes a look at the history of 3D printer shipments over the last three decades, focusing on the top 15 processes and materials by quarter.

CONTEXT said: “The 3D printer market* is often thought of as a single cohesive entity. Yet the reality is much different as you’ll see from this unique high-level view of industry trends over the past three decades.

ASTM International defines seven core types of additive manufacturing machines (aka 3D printers). Even within these types there are various vendor-specific variants, some of which can process a range of materials. By revenue sales, machines printing polymers (plastics) are most popular, followed by those printing metals.

Printer hardware prices range from a few hundred to millions of dollars. And you’ll also find a huge variety of sizes – with some as small as a PC inkjet printer and others as large as a warehouse.

The aggregate analysis shown here encompasses all of these printer types sorted by new units shipped per quarter multiplied by their system price (aka System Revenues). Using this measure, the rise in revenues of metal 3D printers over the past decade is immediately noticeable.”

*Includes period-by-period, non-cumulative, global shipments of new, finished-good printers in all four CONTEXT price-class groupings; PERSONAL (<$2.5K), PROFESSIONAL ($2.5K-$20K), DESIGN ($20K-$100K) and INDUSTRIAL ($100K+). Personal DIY Kits not included.

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