New market study findings from Juniper Research reveal that the combined market value from consumer 3D Printer hardware sales and material spend is forecast to exceed the $1 billion mark by 2018, compared to just over $75 million this year.
While 3D printer shipments are at relatively low levels, representing a limited opportunity in the medium term, Juniper expects them to increase significantly beyond the 5 year period.
Industry leaders, including 3D Systems and Stratasys, confirmed a stronger demand for professional 3D printers and materials compared to a softer consumer demand.
However, the report notes that the entry of HP and Epson into the professional market, along with the development of an appropriate ecosystem of software, applications and materials, will further educate the mass market.
Demand for Digital Content Creation
Additionally Juniper notes that similar to the mobile device ecosystem, digital content will be critical to the success of consumer 3D printing.
"While there has been an increase in awareness of 3D printing it is still, and will continue to be, a niche consumer technology. In order for 3D printing to successfully find a mainstream market among consumers, it needs to widen the applications available that integrate consumer lifestyle and drive a number of applications beyond professional printing," said Nitin Bhas, principal analyst at Juniper Research.
This can be achieved through the creation of an app or online portal for connecting to the cloud and enhancing the functionality of the 3D printer via content -- as already done by MakerBot via its Thingiverse and Digital Store.
Other key findings from the market study include:
- U.S. and Europe are ahead in terms of consumer 3D printer adoption, driven by hobbyists and early tech-adopters.
- Retailers such as Staples are testing in-store 3D printing services for providing a unique experience to their customers, instead of buying the hardware and spending on consumable materials.