China to ship 440K 3D printers by 2020: IDC

IDC expects that within the next five years, approximately 440,000 3D printers will be shipped in the Chinese market alone.

IDC predicts that by 2020 the 3D printer market in China will have experienced a compounded annual growth rate of 43 percent, resulting in a total shipment of 440,000 units.

According to IDC, 3D printer shipments passed 34,000 units in 2014, with current data suggesting the 2015 total will reach 77,000 units. This 120 percent growth rate has been attributed by the market research firm to the availability of desktop 3D printers that are below the $5,000 mark.

Wendy Mok, research manager for IDPS at IDC, said China expects this growth rate to continue, seeing the Asian nation's 3D printer market will surpass the United States in the near future.

"China's local 3D printer market will surpass the US market in 2016 with an annual growth rate over 100 percent," she said. "However, the US is expected to retain its position as the market leader in terms of market revenue, due to the greater proportion of high-end printers adopted by the manufacturing sector."

IDC said desktop 3D printer shipments contribute to over 90 percent of the 3D printer market in China, with low-end desktop fused deposition modelling (FDM) 3D printers that cost as little as $500 occupying a large chunk of the desktop market.

Despite the popularity of FDM 3D printers, it is the professional 3D printers that are making the most money, accounting for 78 percent of total revenue in the world's market. As a result, IDC believe market revenue from desktop 3D printers in China is lagging due to the distinct revenue gap, despite the predicted 43 percent compounded growth.

"To capitalise on this growth, 3D printer vendors will have to discover and meet the demands of corporate users and the trend of industrial transformation in China," Mok said. "Vendors should aim to provide comprehensive solutions in different market segments in order to increase their competitiveness."

IDC said 3D printing became popular in the Chinese market as a result of an initiative run by the country's government to focus on local goods. The Chinese government recently identified 3D printing as a major aspect of its "Made in China 2025" industrial transformation plan.

According to local media, Made in China 2025 is a 10-year action plan designed to transform China from a manufacturing giant into a world manufacturing power.

IDC said the Chinese government is heavily promoting development in areas of hi-tech manufacturing such as bullet trains, aerospace, and aviation. According to IDC, the demand from these segments for parts made by high-end professional 3D printers will aid the growth of China's 3D printer market, narrowing the revenue gap between the Chinese and US 3D printer markets.

As a result of the government initiative, IDC expects Chinese buyers from the manufacturing sector to become more conscious of and more reliant on high print quality, which may see consumers heading for more expensive 3D printer options.

Analyst firm Gartner has predicted that worldwide shipments of 3D printers will tip 5.6 million units by 2019.

Gartner predicted in September that worldwide shipments would reach 244,533 units in 2015 and 496,475 units in 2016, which is more than double the figure forecast for past year. The analyst firm predicts annual shipment figures will continue to double each year between 2016 and 2019, by which at that stage it is predicted over 5.6 million units will be shipped worldwide.

"The 3D printer market is continuing its transformation from a niche market to broad-based, global market of enterprises and consumers." Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner said at the time. "Rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3D printer technologies are driving both enterprise and consumer demand."

The Australian state of New South Wales recently had its Firearms Act 1996 and the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 amended and several additions to the Firearms and Weapons Prohibition Legislation Amendment Bill 2015, which includes the creation of the new offence relating to 3D printed guns.

Under the amendment, it is now considered an offence to possess digital blueprints for the manufacture of firearms on 3D printers or electronic milling machines, and the new offence carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

Owning or using a 3D printed gun was already illegal under existing legislation and is treated the same way as a conventional firearm.

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