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It's a Buyers' Market for 3D Printers

It's a Buyers' Market for 3D Printers

The additive fabrication industry, once known as rapid prototyping, grew in North America at a tepid 3.7 percent pace last year, according to industry consultant Terry Wohlers.

The report was released at Rapid 2009 in Schaumburg, IL, where a price fight broke out as machine builders tried to boost sales.

One-time industry leader 3D Systems Corp. launched its V-Flash Desktop Modeler, which it described as the first commercially available 3D modeler priced under $10,000.

The Dimension 3D Printing Group, a business unit of Stratasys, Inc.  showed the uPrint Personal 3D Printer priced at $14,900. Designed for the desktop, uPrint requires only a 25 x 26 inch footprint and features an 8 x 6 x 6 inch build envelope. uPrint builds models with Stratasys ABSplus – a material on average 40 percent stronger than the company's standard ABS material.
Dimension also recently reduced the base price of its Elite and 1200es 3D printers. The Elite, previously priced at $32,900 is now available for $29,900. The SST 1200es (with Soluble Support Technology) is now priced at $32,900, down from $34,900, and the BST 1200es (with Breakaway Support Technology) is now $18,900, reduced from $26,900.

"With the introduction of the uPrint Personal 3D Printer this past January and the price reductions on the Elite and 1200es Series, we now have a complete product offering ranging from $14,900 to $32,900. We have a variety of price and feature sets to meet the needs of our design and engineering customers," says Jon Cobb, Stratasys vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas.

According to the Wohlers report, Stratasys shipped over 43 percent of all systems worldwide in 2008, and it has the highest global installed base of additive systems: more than double that of its nearest competitor. The report also indicated that within the 3D printer segment of the additive fabrication industry, Stratasys shipped over 50 percent of all units in 2008.

The report indicated that digital manufacturing (DDM) – the manufacture of end-use parts – was one of the fastest-growing industry applications in 2008, representing approximately 16 percent of applications last year.

"We're committed to developing the market for direct digital manufacturing applications," says CEO Scott Crump. "These applications are providing incremental sales opportunities for our Fortus 3D Production Systems. We are optimistic about this emerging market's potential."

One surprising result of the Wohlers report was a crash in the Japanese additive fabrication industry. "Japan declined by a surprising 56.8 percent," Wohlers commented in a keynote address. He offered no explanations. But one hint came in the 10-K annual financial report field this year by 3D Systems.

"On Feb. 25, 2009, we received notice that our largest customer in Japan filed for protection under the Civil Rehabilitation Act, which we understand to be similar to a Chapter 11 filing under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code," the company says in the filing. The total receivable due to was $1.3 million. The name of the customer was not revealed.

Engineers can now take advantage of 3D printing at lower prices. Photo: Stratasys

TAGS: Materials
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