The 3D printing market has generated revenues totaling US$3.3 billion last year, up 34 percent from 2013, as prices fall and more consumers make their first purchase in this segment.
According to market researcher Canalys, nearly 133,000 3D printers were shipped globally in 2014, a 68 percent increase over the previous year. Revenue from the market included associated materials and services.
Canalys' research analyst Joe Kempton said: "The holiday season saw the most significant growth, particularly in the consumer segment, with many users buying their first 3D printer. A combination of falling prices, a wider range of technologies on offer, and improved printing speeds helped fuel this demand."
The research firm estimated that three quarter of 3D printers shipped in fourth-quarter 2014 were priced below US$10,000. In that quarter alone, total market revenue exceeded US$1 billion for the first time in one quarter, with some 41,000 3D printers shipped worldwide. This represented a 24 percent climb over the previous quarter.
The Americas accounted for 42 percent of overall purchases, followed by EMEAS at 31 percent, and Asia-Pacific at 27 percent.
"Low-priced consumer and prosumer 3D printing has made leaps in terms of technological ability, including those coming through crowdfunding portals such as Kickstarter," noted Kempton. "Whereas these consumer printers used to be almost exclusively material extrusion devices, we've seen large growth rates in the vat polymerization segment as prices have fallen, which means more options for consumers."
He added that major market players such as MakerBot and Ultimaker saw significant growth, as well as Chinese vendors such as XYZPrinting, which clocked "substantial increases" in shipment numbers. He noted that Chinese manufacturers had benefited from producing "consumer-friendly 3D printers at impressively low price points".
Canalys' vice president of analysis Rachel Lashford said: "Many 3D printing companies have begun to ramp up spending on research and development to prepare for HP's move into the market in 2016. But we've also seen the more traditional technology companies begin to find their purpose in the market too." Lashford noted that Intel, for instance, was supplying its i7 processor for HP's upcoming Multi Jet Fusion printer, as well as implementing its 3D RealSense cameras into smartphones and tablets such as the Dell Venue Pro 8000.
Kempton further noted that new players were entering the market with the falling cost of entry and new technologies continued to emerge on a regular basis. Market players differentiating themselves with unique material printing properties, technical abilities, and enhanced printing speeds, had sparked media interest and could become acquisition targets.
He added that Canalys was expecting 2015 to see the largest number of acquisitions in the 3D printing space to date.