CONTEXT reports 14% growth in revenue from 3D printing systems despite shipment dip

Market insights firm CONTEXT has reported a significant rise in 3D printer revenue despite the global number of shipments falling 4% over the same period. 

According to CONTEXT, income generated from system sales rose 14% during Q3 2022 due to “inflationary pressures,” which caused “same-model price increases in all classes, helping to prop up revenue.” On the flipside, however, the firm also found that the number of units shipped fell sharply during this period, with sub-$2,500 ‘Personal’ 3D printers dipping most, owing to demand and supply chain issues. 

“While great unit shipment disparities were seen across various printer price classes, all segments saw system revenues rise from a year ago”, said Chris Connery, Head of Global Analysis at CONTEXT. “Unit volume growth in the period was led by the Design price class with unit volumes up +29% thanks mostly to industry stalwarts launching products in new modalities.” 

A manufacturing facility filled with EOS polymer 3D printers. Photo via EOS.
CONTEXT says the high-revenue, low-shipment trend seen in Q3 2022 was “exemplified” by EOS. Photo via EOS.

Revenue growth outstrips unit sales 

In spite of wider rises in revenue, CONTEXT has reported that Industrial shipments only rose 2% between Q3 2021 and Q3 2022, with those of metal units up 4%, and those of polymer machines down 2%. The firm says EOS, the largest operator in this area, “exemplfied the trend for revenues to rise much faster than unit shipments,” with its system revenue jumping 35%, but its shipments growing just 1%.  

Other firms that contributed to the industry’s wider revenue increase, are said to include Meltio, which CONTEXT describes as a “new low-end player,” and the manufacturers of powder bed fusion (PBF) 3D printers in China. The company also cites the strong system sales performance of top ten business like HBD, SLM Solutions, Velo3D, Desktop Metal, and UnionTech, as contributors to this trend. 

In fact, CONTEXT credits the latter for “driving most of the shipment growth in Q3 2022,” as it bounced back from the lockdowns of Q2 (when shipments were down 38% Y/Y), to ship 62% more printers than in Q3 2021, and China as a whole, proved to be the largest and fastest-growing market, up 34% over the same period. 

Another reason the market analysis firm cites for revenue rising against declining shipments is “inflationary pressures.” Sometimes inflation can lead customers to buy ahead of anticipated price hikes, but CONTEXT hasn’t reported this, and instead credits rising revenue to PBF 3D printer developers, for driving demand with the launch of more efficient, productive, and powerful machines.

“Many high-profile 3D printer companies made layoffs as industry dynamics shifted from those prevalent at the start of the year,” added Connery. “Some faced supply chain challenges that hindered their ability to ship more units while others are suffering from stagnating demand. Amid fears of a forthcoming recession, some end-markets are, as a precautionary measure, reducing capital expenditure until global macroeconomic conditions stabilize.”

Morf3D's NXG XII 600 installed at its Applied Digital Manufacturing Center.
SLM Solutions launched the NXG XII 600 in late 2021. Photo via SLM Solutions.

Desktop 3D printing sales dip

While Industrial system shipments grew 2% from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022, CONTEXT has reported that Professional, Personal, and Kit & Hobby shipments fell 7%, 11%, and 3%, respectively. In the former, a category the company uses to encapsulate all 3D printers worth $2,500 – $20,000, it says shipments dropped 7% over this period, with FFF machines down 8% and SLA shipments down 21%. 

Similarly, CONTEXT says the boom in sub-$2,500 3D printer shipments seen during the pandemic has now subsided, with Personal shipments falling 11% in the period and Kit & Hobby shipments down 3%. The intelligence firm adds that this area of the market “continued to be dominated” by Creality, though the success of Bambu Lab’s $7.1 million kickstarter is “a significant bright spot” there. 

Elsewhere in the industry, CONTEXT found that Professional and Personal printer developer UltiMaker had a market share of 36%, but in the former, its shipments fell 14%. Collectively, UltiMaker and Formlabs (which also saw reduced unit shipments) accounted for 51% of global Professional system revenues in Q3 2022, although it was noted how shipments of Nexa3D’s XiP 3D printer have started ramping. 

By contrast, CONTEXT’s research shows that shipments of Design printers (worth $20,000 – $100,000) were up 29% from Q3 2021 to Q3 2022. This was mostly due to the sale of new products in the category. These include the Formlabs Fuse 1+30W (which is already the fourth-bestselling product in this price category), UnionTech’s new DLP system, Stratasys’ Origin P3, Photocentric’s LC Magna, and Desktop Metal’s Fiber system, which together, accounted for 15% of all Design shipments. 

An engineer using Formlabs' new Fuse 1+ 30W 3D printer. Image via Formlabs.
An engineer using Formlabs’ new Fuse 1+ 30W 3D printer. Image via Formlabs.

High revenue, low volume sales to continue? 

As we progress into FY 2023, CONTEXT says that many forecasts “have turned cautious” due to fears over regional recessions, and how China’s zero-Covid policy might reduce domestic demand, or lead to further supply chain disruption. 

That said, the company claims forecasts for other key 3D printing markets and technologies like aerospace and PBF “remain strong.” In particular, CONTEXT notes how BLT and Eplus3D have joined SLM Solutions and Velo3D in announcing new large-format multi-laser metal 3D printers, which should now help them “meet rising demand” for such systems. 

Now that HP has fully launched its Metal Jet 3D printer and GE Additive has introduced the Series 3 binder jet 3D printer, the firm says additive manufacturing is also closer to becoming “a more mainstream manufacturing process.” Overall, in FY 2023, Connery says growth will continue to be “much higher in system revenue than in shipments,” with revenue now forecast to rise 19% across all technologies. 

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Featured image shows a row of EOS P 396 3D printers. Photo via EOS.