Lately this has been cropping up a bit, What is the size of the 3D printing market? Or How many consumer 3D printers have been sold to date?

It is a pretty interesting question, just about every other week a new model of 3D printer jumps onto the scene. Many of these companies remind me of the computing industry in the early 90’s. The small local computer shop that would sell components, and assemble computers to specification. So with this homebrew cottage industry in full-swing, how do you get a handle on how many printers are actually being sold?

First up, I trawled Kickstarter. A perfect way to get started, it is really easy to search by product categories and the way the whole reward system works makes it really easy to see how many 3D printers have been ‘pre-sold’. It turns out 2012 was the year of the new 3D printer on Kickstarter:

A total of 2929 printers sold / funded on Kickstarter.

So what about the sales numbers for the existing players in the market, naturally Makerbot was the first company that sprung to mind. Fortunately they have a rough sales figure listed on their FAQ. 13,000 printers. Trying to figure out the numbers of the RepRap is much harder since there is no single vendor (i.e. the PrintrBot from Kickstarter is actually a RepRap variant).

However, earlier this year the Peer Production Foundation completed the first ever 3D printing survey. They had 358 people respond to their survey. Assuming a representative sample of the whole community, we can use the Makerbot sales figures to roughly infer the sales of the whole community. This is done by using the following chart as a rough guide for the market share of each of current players in the 3D printing space.

Pie chart showing 3D printer usage by company

This figures the marketshare of MakerBot to be about 17%, which actually seems a bit low. Perhaps people responding to the survey have used more than one 3D printer, or perhaps the survey isn’t completely representative of the consumer 3D printing community. But if MakerBot its at a 17% market share, and has sold 13,000 printers to date this means the total sales of 3D printers are around 70,000 units.

So what about industry reports, what do they say? Wohlers Associates generate a report on the additive manufacturing industry. Unfortunately I don’t have a lazy $500 around to purchase the whole report, but the awesome RepRap forums managed to scrape up the relevant extract.

Bar chart showing global 3D printer sales from 2007 to 2011

They come up with around 32,000 printers, (this puts the Makerbot marketshare at closer to 40%).

So bottom line? How many consumer 3D printers have been currently sold? Somewhere between 32,000 and 70,000. That is not exactly the third-industrial revolution but it is a surprisingly strong start.


You can join the conversation on Twitter or Instagram

Become a Patreon to get early and behind-the-scenes access along with email notifications for each new post.