3D Printing is Fast Becoming a Hot Hobby Among Consumers

Paul Lilly

Almost half of the 3D printers sold in Q1 of 2014 were to consumers

Have you considered buying a 3D printer? Maybe you poked around but got spooked by the price tags. 3D printing is a relatively new thing in the consumer sector, and even many of the lower priced models are still cost prohibitive. Be that as it may, there's definitely interest in the category. According to Canalys, 3D printing is gaining significant traction among consumers thanks in part to several crowdfunded efforts.

"To date, the enterprise space has been the focus of 3D printing activities. Businesses from a range of industries have invested in the technology to experiment and test its potential, to expedite design and prototyping processes, or to enable local customized manufacturing," said Canalys Senior Analyst Tim Shepherd . "While enterprise engagement will continue to grow, it looks to be the consumer space that will drive shipments in the near future. We are already seeing significant numbers of early technology adopters and hobbyists investing in relatively cheap 3D printers. As prices continue to fall, the technology improves and use cases are tested, this trend is set to continue."

It's already happening. Of the 36,800 3D printers that were shipped around the globe in the first quarter of this year, Canalys says consumers gobbled up 46 percent of them. That's up from 43 percent for the full year in 2013, which is indicative of falling prices.

"In reality, there is a good number of basic printer models coming to market at sub-US$1,000 price points, and some crowdfunding projects promise sub-US$500 prices," said Canalys Research Analyst Joe Kempton.

One example is the Micro 3D (M3D) printer . Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Micro is now available to pre-order for $349 for a limited time. The doesn't include to print with -- you can add a spool of colored PLA or ABS filment for $13 -- though it's still one of the cheaper 3D printers consumers can order. Barring any hiccups, it's expected to ship in February of next year.

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