The report emphasizes that “Laser wars” are responsible for a 15% increase in metal 3D printer revenue for the full year.


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A new market report has shed light on the changing landscape of Industrial 3D printer sales in the second quarter of 2023. The report, released by market intelligence firm CONTEXT, attributes this shift to failed merger activity and the emergence of what it calls “laser wars” within the metal 3D printing sector.

The distractions caused by recent acquisition and merger attempts have reportedly led to a decrease in capital expenditure in key markets for Western vendors. One notable example is Stratasys, whose proposed acquisition of Desktop Metal was rejected by shareholders. In contrast, Eastern vendors, particularly those in China, have seen strong year-on-year growth in sales.

According to Chris Connery, head of global analysis at CONTEXT, efforts to create the world’s first $1 billion 3D printing company have not been abandoned despite the failed merger attempts. While unit sales for Western vendors may be low, their focus on producing more expensive systems is driving revenue growth. The “laser wars” have played a significant role in boosting revenue, with manufacturers now incorporating up to 26 lasers into metal powder bed fusion 3D printers.

CONTEXT predicts that the “laser wars” will result in a 15% increase in full-year revenue for the Industrial metal 3D printer market. This forecast is supported by the introduction of Eplus3D’s EP-M1550 metal 3D printer, which can accommodate 25 lasers.

The report also highlights regional variations in Industrial 3D printer sales in Q2 2023. Demand in China has been met primarily by domestic vendors, while Western vendors have fulfilled orders in the US, Europe, and other regions. China remains the largest market for Industrial 3D printing, accounting for 38% of shipments in Q2 2023. North America and Western Europe hold market shares of 29% and 23% respectively.

Despite uneven growth caused by COVID lockdowns in Shanghai in 2022, unit sales of Industrial polymer 3D printers in China showed a significant increase in Q2 2023, growing 66% compared to the previous year. In contrast, Western vendors experienced a 15% decline in sales.

The report also reveals that powder bed fusion continues to dominate the Industrial metal 3D printing market, representing 74% of all systems shipped in Q2 2023. While Western vendors saw a 12% decline in shipments compared to the previous year, Chinese vendors experienced a 1% increase.

Manufacturers are reportedly shifting their focus from the number of 3D printers shipped to the sale of larger, more efficient, and expensive models. Consequently, Western vendors saw a 5% decline in powder bed fusion shipments in the first half of 2023, but revenues increased by 21%. These high-end systems often incorporate a large number of lasers, which have played a significant role in the “laser wars” introduced to the West by companies like Nikon, SLM Solutions, and Velo3D. Chinese companies, including Xi’an Bright Laser Technologies, Farsoon Technologies, Eplus3D, and Hanbang United 3D Technology, have also joined the competition, with their 3D printers incorporating 16, 20, and even 26 lasers.

The report also highlights mixed success in the Midrange and Professional price classes. Midrange 3D printer sales outperformed those from the Professional class, with a 7% year-on-year growth in Q2 2023. This growth was mainly driven by high sales of low-end polymer powder bed fusion 3D printers, particularly from Formlabs. UnionTech, a Chinese vendor, also contributed to this growth with increased domestic shipments of vat photopolymerization 3D printers.

In conclusion, the market report from CONTEXT provides valuable insights into the shifting regional patterns and dynamics within the Industrial 3D printer market. The emergence of “laser wars” and the focus on larger, more expensive systems have impacted both unit sales and revenue growth for Western and Eastern vendors. China remains a prominent market for Industrial 3D printing, with strong year-on-year growth in both polymer and metal 3D printer sales.

The 3D printing industry has been a topic of interest and speculation for many years now. With advancements in technology and a growing demand for personalized products, it seemed like the possibilities were endless. However, recent reports suggest that the market for 3D printers may be hitting a plateau.

According to a recent report from CONTEXT, shipments of 3D printers have begun to level off. This means that the number of units being sold is no longer increasing at the same rate as it once was. In fact, in the professional 3D printer space, unit shipments dropped by 30% year over year in the second quarter of 2023, following a similar decline in the first quarter. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) and fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printer shipments fell by 36%, while stereolithography (SLA) systems saw a 30% decrease.

Two companies in particular, UltiMaker BV and Formlabs, were behind this decline, experiencing steep year-over-year declines in unit shipments. However, it’s not all bad news for the industry. Bambu Lab, a leading 3D printer manufacturer based in Shenzhen, has seemingly taken the personal 3D printer market by storm. Their recent launch of the X1E desktop 3D printer has made them the market share leader in the fully assembled class of personal 3D printers for the second quarter of 2023.

Overall, personal and kit & hobby 3D printers experienced a 12% increase in unit shipments and a 22% year-over-year growth in system revenue. This success can be attributed to Bambu Lab and AnkerMake, with their successful Kickstarter campaign. However, when these two companies are excluded, personal 3D printer shipments actually fell by 28% compared to the second quarter of 2022.

While Bambu Lab has seen success in the personal 3D printer market, Creality, a former market leader, has only seen a marginal increase in shipments. Most other vendors in this space have experienced double-digit year-over-year shipment declines. Despite this, Creality remains dominant within the desktop segment of the 3D printer market and is still considered the undisputed leader in the DIY Kit & Hobby class.

The macroeconomic forecast for the industry is varied, according to CONTEXT. Half of the top ten revenue-leading manufacturers of 3D printers costing over $2,500 saw year-over-year shipment growth in the first half of 2023. However, other major players like Stratasys, Desktop Metal, 3D Systems, and Formlabs saw shipment declines.

The wide variation of macroeconomic forecasts is driving these mixed results. Vendors are facing longer sales cycles and a push-out of orders, while others are experiencing strong demand. Some see early signs of a recovery, while others view the global economic environment as challenging and uncertain. Additionally, high global interest rates are limiting spending on new hardware due to the cost of capital.

Looking ahead, CONTEXT expects to see 3% unit shipment growth and 14% system revenue growth by the end of 2023. Inflationary price increases are expected to drive 9% industrial polymer 3D printer revenue growth and a 5% increase in unit shipments. The growing trend of producing more expensive but more efficient multi-laser metal powder bed fusion 3D printers is also expected to contribute to inflation. As a result, CONTEXT predicts a 15% full-year revenue growth for the industrial metal 3D printer space.

In conclusion, while the 3D printing industry may be experiencing a plateau in unit shipments, there are still pockets of growth and potential for the future. Companies like Bambu Lab are leading the way in the personal 3D printer market, while Creality maintains its dominance in the desktop and kit & hobby segments. The macroeconomic forecast remains uncertain, but there is hope for continued growth and innovation in the industry.

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