3D printing begins to recover from the impact of the pandemic

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Throughout the first three quarters of 2021, the 3D printing market has grown solidly, after suffering a significant shock during the first year of the pandemic. Although some categories are still below 2019 levels, industry forecasts are very positive for the coming years, driven by applications such as custom product manufacturing.

Shipments of 3D printers fell sharply as a result of the economic uncertainty that began in 2020, with the advent of COVID-19, but in the first three months of 2021 they began to recover . The interest of many industries in modern 3D printing technologies is increasing, as they allow to reduce costs and manufacture highly customized products, while eliminating the complete dependence on the supply chain of materials.

According to figures from the latest CONTEXT report , in the first three quarters of last year shipments of industrial 3D printers increased 39% year-on-year, although they remained 6% below the 2019 level. And experts explain that, although certain 3D Brochures and Stationaries Virginia, USA Territories technologies can shorten the supply chain and reliance on global logistics, and because certain components of these machines can be manufactured in this way, 3D printers themselves have had to face their own supply challenges in the third quarter. of 2021.

Shipments of high-end equipment grew in this period, but many suppliers have reported that demand has exceeded supply in these months. Although a current of optimism has settled in the industry, and customers are once again very interested in the possibilities that this technology can offer them. And this is materializing in new orders that indicate a new stage of growth for the sector.

The design and industrial 3D printer category, which is priced above $20,000, suffered a large sales decline as a result of the capex restraint that occurred during the first year of the pandemic. In 2021 the situation improved a lot, but sales remained below 2019 levels. The increase in demand was focused on some technologies, such as polymer ink polymerization, which increased sales by 22% year-on-year. Or inkjet inkjet, which saw spectacular growth of 104%.

These particular printers have numerous applications in many industries, from luxury goods manufacturing to education, research and development, to the automotive and aerospace industries . And resin ink curing printers are being used more and more in the manufacture of custom products, for example, in dentistry, to make clear dental aligners.

The professional 3D printer category, which ranges in price from $2,500 to $20,000, was the least affected by the pandemic, and in the first three months of 2021 its sales grew another 14%, exceeding 2019 levels by 13%. Sales in this segment have been driven by new product lines and the growth of benchtop SLS polymer powder bed fusion machines. Finally, the category of personal and hobby 3D printers (under $2,500), fully assembled, have fallen in price and their demand has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Lower category sales have been more subdued in 2021, and are still above 2019 levels.

Looking ahead to 2022, the main trends of the 3D printing industry will be the growth of extrusion printers for high-temperature thermoplastic materials, those of composite materials, the balance between organic growth and consolidation, the relaxation of problems in the supply chain and the progress of digital and additive manufacturing. Experts believe that overall industry growth could reach 23% year-on-year, with the next five years seeing an increase in technologies such as Blinder Jetting, VAT polymer, light-curing, and polymer powder bed fusion, shipments of which they could grow at a CAGR of 30% or more.

The large-format printer market resumes growth for the next 5 years

After the great impact that the pandemic has had on this market, sales of large format printers are growing again, especially in regions such as North America and Asia Pacific. According to a recent study, the market value is expected to increase at a CAGR of 5.4% between 2021 and 2026, highlighting the growth of ink technologies and the rapid progress of Asia Pacific.

During the early stages of the health crisis, the market for large-format printers suffered a considerable impact but started to recover last year, reaching a value of 8.8 billion dollars. According to the forecasts included in the latest report published by Markets&Markets at the end of the year, global sales are expected to increase at a CAGR of 5.4% between 2021 and 2026, by which time it could reach 11.4 billion dollars.

One of the regions responsible for the improvement in the market is North America, where demand has increased from companies interested in large-scale printing and from other customers of these machines, such as those dedicated to advertising and decoration. In addition, the market is taking advantage of the technological advances that are taking place in the industry, and this region has remained the largest in the global market, since it is home to some of the largest companies in the sector, such as HP, Electronics for Imaging, Xerox Corporation, and Lexmark.

Those responsible for this report believe that the new outbreaks of the pandemic will affect the global wide-format printer market, but sales are not expected to fall to the same extent as in the first half of 2020, and the recovery is expected to continue. in 2022. And they highlight that Asia Pacific has the potential to be the fastest-growing region in the period 2021-2026. And also for the growth of the large-format printer industry itself, which will take advantage of growing demand in developed countries such as Japan and South Korea, and the growing strength of China.

It is expected that in these years the demand for printers for graphics, textiles and also for CAD and technical printing will increase considerably. And experts anticipate a particular increase in demand for advertising and signage applications in countries like India, where the economy is picking up strongly.

At the technology level, the segment of ink-based printers will experience the greatest growth in these years, especially due to the increasing use of these technologies in the segments of technical applications and CAD printing. Major customers such as the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industries are switching from laser to ink printing as vendors offer new ink printing systems that are faster and allow for greater cost control.

On the other hand, the UV-curable ink segment is generating a lot of interest among large-format printer customers, and analysts expect that the demand for this type of ink will increase in these years, maintaining the largest market share. This is because these types of pigments take less time to dry and are much more resistant to exposure to sunlight than aqueous ink. For its part, traditional solvent ink is waterproof and supports sunlight, but it generates highly toxic chemical vapors that require special ventilation systems. In contrast, UV-cured ink dries almost instantly, has no significant environmental impact, and can be applied to a wide variety of uncoated and rigid surfaces.

The print channel must evolve to meet customer needs

The printing industry is at a critical fork. To emerge smarter and stronger in 2022, the entire print value chain and ecosystem, including manufacturers, channel partners, and ISVs, must drive innovation, agility, and resilience. MPS that do not offer strategic value will be in danger of obsolescence.

Quocirca’s COVID-19 Business Impact study revealed that 81% of industry executives saw the pandemic as an opportunity for innovation and 63% planned to change their operating models. The industry continues to navigate massive uncertainty, with just 26% of industry executives confident that print volumes will recover to pre-pandemic levels. The rapid shift to digitization, office closures and a growing preference for hybrid working means that office print volumes have never recovered.

However, managed print service (MPS) providers and other channel companies have proven resilient over the past year, adjusting quickly to remote work and supporting customers amid supply chain disruptions. As we emerge from the pandemic and some offices reopen, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas and return to pre-COVID habits.

MPS providers and channel companies must make a big change and evolve to meet the rapidly changing needs of customers as they adapt to the new hybrid work-anywhere environment. In today’s cloud era, any managed service must deliver a predictable experience without sacrificing security or compliance, while dealing with the complications of managing and optimizing new technology.

Those channel partners that have embraced agility, flexibility, and innovation have been better positioned to help their customers respond to and recover from market disruption. However, some traditional channel partners and MPS providers are not adapting beyond hardware-centric managed print services, leaving them unable to address new customer demands in the era of hybrid work. To successfully adapt, the channel must act now and accelerate the shift to become a digital transformation service provider. For Quocirca, the top priorities for channel leaders in the print industry will be:

–Adapt to changing customer behavior. Technology buying is changing, driven by the consumerization of B2B and a generational shift as Millennials move into decision-making roles. Today, more than 90% of shopper journeys start online, and expect a frictionless, personalized Amazon-like experience. The modern B2B buyer prefers digital channels to one-on-one interactions, which is driving the use of online marketplaces. As Generation Z enters the workforce in large numbers, the channel must prepare now and innovate its business models to deliver digital customer experiences.

–Helping clients build an agile, resilient and sustainable infrastructure. Customers will need guidance on how to build a resilient and agile infrastructure that supports a distributed and hybrid workforce. This must support customer-defined business outcomes around safety, sustainability, and workforce productivity. The channel should prioritize services around security, cloud, digital workflow automation, analytics, and sustainability and build custom solutions to deliver higher-value services.

–Harness the power of analytics and AI/ML. The channel must tap into deep customer insight, which is backed by vast amounts of data. By understanding where customers are on their digital transformation journey, the channel can develop broader services and drive strategic value beyond print. Partners that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to provide predictive support and insights into usage will be able to strongly differentiate themselves. The channel should also explore the use of AI and ML to automate manual tasks, reduce support costs, and improve service delivery excellence.

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