According to IT research company CONTEXT, worldwide sales of 3D printing machines for metal parts were up more than 45% in the third quarter compared to the same period last year. Shipments of metal 3D printers alone have grown 51% so far in 2015.
3D printers also account for an outsize share of overall industrial printer revenues. 3D printers only accounted for 7% of the global industrial/professional printer unit volume shipments in the third quarter, but were responsible for 31% of revenues in that category, up from 22% in the third quarter of 2014.
EOS, Concept Laser, 3D Systems, Optomec and SLM Solutions all increased their metal printer shipments. While North America remains the world’s largest region for 3D Printing with 44% of the industrial printers shipped in Q3, Western Europe leads in consumption of metal-based systems. More than 56% of all metal systems shipped in Q3 went to this region.
“The trend of using 3D printing for finished goods, direct part production is most evident in the metal side of the industry,” said Chris Connery vice president for global analysis at CONTEXT. “As the 3D Printing industry continues to evolve away from just leveraging the technology for rapid prototyping, more and more metal machines are finding homes alongside traditional machines on factory floors.”
The aerospace, automotive and medical markets are the leading industries for metal 3D printing, according to CONTEXT’s research.
Metal printer growth has come despite a general slowdown of industrial/professional 3D printer growth. In a September report, CONTEXT noted that while desktop printer growth has continued at a rapid pace (a projected 50% from 2014 to 2015), the industrial segment had temporarily slowed to the single digits.
In separate research published earlier in the year, IDTechEx found that metals are the fastest growing segment of 3D printing, with printer sales growing at 48% and material sales growing at 32% in its report, “3D Printing of Metals 2015-2025.” In that report, IDTechEx stated that aerospace and biomedical are early adopters, while jewelers have quickly adopted the technology as well.
You can read our earlier coverage of that report here.