Crowdfunding fueling 3D printer fandom with consumers: Canalys

The 3D printer craze is not just for small businesses. Consumers love them (or at least, want to love them) too, survey says.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

3D printers might be on the brink of going mainstream, based on a new report from Canalys.

The market intelligence firm is feeding fodder that 3D printers are finding their way into the consumer market thanks to the convergence of a number of factors.

But no other factor might be as prominent as another craze sweeping the technology industry and beyond these days: crowdfunding.

Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd highlighted Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the report while hinting at the perpetual cycle of innovation going on here.

The often rapid success of these projects in reaching their funding goals shows that crowdfunding sites represent a viable source of finance in this area and, more importantly, verifies real consumer interest levels. While they are often limited in the size of objects they can print, the materials they can use and the finish they can provide, affordable printers will continue to drive interest and adoption in the fledgling consumer market, giving vendors an opportunity to upsell down the line.

Lower price points are certainly helping too, perhaps presenting a chicken-and-egg type scenario in which costs are going down as demand steadily increases.

Canalys only provided broad observations about the current pulse of 3D printers priced at $1,000 or less, only noting that there are now "a good number of basic printer models" and related software being produced by the likes of Autodesk and Stratasys-owned Makerbot.

Nevertheless, higher-end 3D printers for the enterprise sector are certainly continuing to gain traction. Analysts cited 67 percent of 3D printers shipped in Q1 2014 were priced under $10,000 before taxes. Those over $100,000 made up one percent of shipments.

The boom for 3D printers exploded over the last year, and most of the chatter has pointed toward opportunities for small to mid-sized businesses that can cut down on points along the supply chain.

This in turn has paved the way for what is becoming colloquially known as "The Maker Movement."

During the first quarter of 2014, roughly 26,800 3D printers shipped worldwide. Of those, Canalys asserted "most" were purchased by enterprise customers but at least 46 percent were purchased by consumers -- up from 43 percent for the entire duration of 2013.

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