…According to the Wohlers report, the overall market for 3-D printing products and services hit $2.2 billion in 2012, a compounded annual growth rate of almost 29 percent compared to the $1.7 billion the industry recorded in 2011. Over the 25 years that Wohlers has been tracking 3-D printing the compounded annual growth rate has been about 25 percent.
Of the 3-D printing machines sold, the low-cost category (those priced under $5,000 and where most of the DIY crowd is concentrated) accounted for almost $40 million in sales. That translates to 6.5 percent of the $617.5 million in 3-D printers sold. Yes, the hobbyist market is a very new one, but the growth curve it has been riding for the past few years has slowed dramatically. From 2008 to 2011 the market in low-cost 3-D printers grew 346 percent a year, according to Wohlers. In 2012, growth slowed to 46 percent.
You can’t expect to more than triple growth year after year, things have to slow at some point. But there is something more going on, says Terry Wohlers principal consultant and president of Wohlers Associates. “It’s possible we picked the low-hanging fruit, the hobbyists, makers and DIY folks who wanted these,” Wohlers says. “These aren’t professional grade systems, and they aren’t that easy to use. I just don’t see the average family having a 3-D printer to make parts for whatever.”
In response to the slowing uptake among amateurs, Wohlers says he’s seeing companies like MakerBot going upstream. “You can tell that they are trying to go beyond the market of the individual hobbyist types and get into the more professional companies,” Wohlers says. “MakerBot in particular has had some success at Ford, but all these low-cost 3-D printer makers are finding it is a little harder to get deeper into the hobbyist market and breakthrough into some of the professional markets.” …