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3D printer shipments see “phenomenal” year-on-year growth in Q2 2021

Global shipments of 3D printers continued to accelerate throughout 2021, according to the latest insights by CONTEXT.

While not back to pre-Covid levels, shipments grew by +61% for Industrial class (machines costing 100K USD+) and by +43% for those in the Design class (20K-100K USD), the two segments which were the most negatively impacted by pandemic-related disruptions last year.

“As economies around the globe continued to recover from, battled against or learned to live with Covid-19, organisations began to settle in to their new normal”, said Chris Connery, VP of Global Research at CONTEXT. “While capital expenditures were largely put on hold a year ago, spending had opened up by the second quarter of this year and this led to phenomenal year-on-year shipment growth rates.”

The increase in Industrial printer shipments was most significant in North America. New shipments in Western Europe rose modestly while China shipments levelled off. All but two of the Top 10 vendors of Industrial printers saw shipments rise from a year ago. CONTEXT highlights UnionTech, Stratasys and 3D Systems for their “exceptional organic shipment growth.”

Although numbers are down by -10% for Industrial printers and by -5% for Design printers when compared to Q2 2019 figures, CONTEXT expects that 2021 will see shipments rise above 2019 levels. For example, industrial printer shipments are now forecast to be up +35% compared to 2020 and up +6% from 2019. It reaffirms forecasts made by the company last year that new technologies and pent-up demand would help accelerate the 3D printing market in 2021.

“Companies, especially those based in the US and China, are increasingly bullish about prospects for growth in H2 2021 as in-person trade events begin again around the world”, added Connery. “This optimism needs to be tempered when it is based on marketing activities associated with new public listings, or have the nuances examined given that many individual companies are looking to grow by adding non-3D printing technologies to their portfolios. The outlook for the 3D-printer-only market is further clouded by the fact that individual companies have seen growth as a result of mergers and acquisitions. Even parsing out individual technology trends and focusing only on net-new 3D printer shipments, forecasts for 2021 are robust.”

Elsewhere, in the Personal and Hobbyist machine categories, two areas which saw demand spike during the pandemic, sales started to stall with shipment of DIY printers in Q2 2021 up +18% year-on-year – much lower than recent quarters – and shipments for fully-assembled printers costing less than $2.5K were down -32%. Resin-based LCD vat photopolymerisation printers in particular experienced significant growth and accounted for 46% of all fully assembled shipments, up from just 10% in 2019.

Lastly, in the Professional class category, shipments were up +38% from Q2 2020 and up +33% from Q2 2019 thanks to the introduction of new products from vendors such as Formlabs which has launched larger versions of its desktop SLA system and compact Fuse 1 SLS machine in the last two years. This category also saw increased demand during the pandemic due to the shift to home-working.

The benefits of additive manufacturing (AM) technologies gained increased exposure throughout the pandemic, highlighted by the rapid manufacture of products such as face shields and nasal swabs. As supply chains were impacted by travel restrictions and lockdowns, it also drew more attention to the technology’s ability to plug gaps where needed and provide opportunities for decentralising and relocalising manufacturing. The enduring question has been around whether or not this newfound attention will have a lasting positive impact on the adoption of 3D printing but these latest figures from CONTEXT show that might be the case.


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