There was a lull after the 3D printer sales storm in 2017 as shipments of personal/desktop boxes declined in the first quarter of this year for the first time, according to distributor stats.
There were 3 per cent fewer units of the desktop variety flung into distribution globally in the three months than was the case in Q1 2017.
Personal 3D printer shipments still account for 81 per cent of the entire sector, though the industrial/professional segment is a better barometer for overall market health and this area grew, CONTEXT said.
Sub-$2,500 3D printers leaped ahead in recent years in education, and among hobbyists and some professional users. "Unfettered growth" of these relatively low-priced devices went on despite a "lack of a true consumer market", the market research biz said.
The trend of start-ups using crowdsourcing sites to fund new ventures reflected demand but over the last three quarters there were fewer and fewer successful campaigns, it noted.
Though still king in terms of shipments, the professional/industrial sector actually accounted for the lion's share of market revenues (69 per cent) in Q1 due to the expense of these printers. Collectively, these two types of devices grew 14 per cent but it was the industrial class that really soared, up a fifth on a year ago.
Industrial 3D printers are split into two main sections: polymers/plastics printers were ruled by Stratysys, Union Tech and HP; and metals printers were bossed by EOS, GE Additive, SLM Solution and 3D Systems.
There was less love, however, for professional 3D printers with units bought by distributors sliding 21 per cent year-on-year. This came after growth of 112 per cent for 2017.
Chris Connery, veep for global analysis at CONTEXT said of the professional type: "This near-term downturn is expected to be an anomaly rather than a trend: vendors like 3D systems are again focusing on this class of printers.
"Additionally, more and more end markets are seeing this as a separate category."
The 3D print market is broken down by average sales prices with the industrial devices priced at around $100,000, the design segment at $20,000 to $100,000, professional at $2,500 to $20,000 and personal at $2,500 and below. ®