Big Number

182 Million People will Make or Buy 3D Printed Products by 2019

182 Million People

Extrapolating figures provided by Gartner Research, we predict in 2019 there’ll be 182 million people involved with 3D printed products.

Mathias Plica, CEO All3DP (c) Bethel Fath
Mathias Plica is the CEO of All3DP

Research firm Gartner recently published their annual statistics and forecast on 3D printing. One finding of the study is that the number of shipped 3D printers will grow from 244,000 units in 2015 to 5.6 million units in 2019. That’s a number roughly twentyfold of today.

By far the largest part of this comes from material extrusion printers, which are said to be the driver of growth. From 232,336 units shipped in 2015, the number grows to 5,527,493 units in 2019 (which is 97.5 percent of the total units shipped).

Now, it’s nice to know the number of printers out there. But how many people will use 3D printing or buy 3D printed products in 2019? Let’s do some calculations.

A lot more people are involved in 3D printing than there are printers in the market

In any case, there are as many users as printers out there. And as the installed base of printers is larger than just the number of printers shipped this year, we can include the shipments of the two preceding years, which adds up to roughly 356,000 printers in use. Older printers fall out of the calculation.

Then there are many, many printers which are not used by only one person, but by many people. For example in schools, universities, in small and big companies, in fablabs and maker spaces. We will call those printers multi-user printers. Let’s assume that half of the printers out there can be classed as multi-user printers, and let’s assume that ten people have access to each of these printers.

This brings the number up to 1.78 million people using multi-user printers. Combined with single users, this makes 1.96 million people with access to 3D printers — and hopefully they will all print from time to time.

But wait, there’s more. There are people out there who do not have access to a 3D printer, but who love 3D printed products. Perhaps they’ve ordered a 3D selfie at a studio in their city, or maybe they’re ordering custom objects from Shapeways and similar services, or even 3D printed jewellery. How many would this be today? Well, let’s put factor “one” in there, assuming that the number of people who have access to 3D printers are matched by people who don’t have access but who can get ahold of 3D printed products through one way or another.

This brings the number up to 3.92 million people who are somehow engaged with 3D printed products in 2015. Worldwide. Even in China. Okay, taking into account all the companies, offers, kickstarter projects, and fablabs out there, this may be a plausible figure for 2015.


The largest part of 3D printing clients will not have access to a printer — they just love the products

But what about 2019? Let’s do exactly the same calculation as above.

Well, 5.52 million units of material extrusion printers shipped in 2019 — according to Gartner — plus the shipments of the two preceding years sum up to an installed base of approximately 8.3 million 3D printers. Research firm Gartner says that these shipments will not primarily be driven by households, but by schools and universities. That makes sense and therefore we adapt the same ratio for multi-user printers as above.

When 50% of the installed 8.3 million printers are each accessible for ten persons, we jump up to a cosy 41.4 million people with access to printers in all educational institutions, maker spaces, factories, small companies, and so on. Just add the other half of the installed base being used by individual owners and we are at 45.5 million 3D printing users.

Take a deep breath now. What about all the people without a printer, but with a need for 3D printed products? For the year 2015 we matched the group of active 3D printer users by the same number again. But hold on; is it plausible, that with four years to go and with all the developments we can see today, that this ratio will remain the same?

The number of shops for 3D printed products is growing offline and online, and many new products for consumer goods and manufacturing are being developed with 3D printing. There is so much to come. We would argue that the factor goes up from one to three. For each person working actively with a 3D printer there will be three persons in 2019 who don’t have access to a printer, but who just buy and use 3D printed products. This seems like a plausible assumption in a maturing market.

Just think, how many mantelpieces out there in the world, with framed photographs of the grandparents or grandchildren, that are waiting to be replaced with 3D selfies of the same?

And the maths? When we take factor three into account, this takes us to 182 million people who are involved with 3D printed products in the year 2019. Either by making 3D printed products or simply by buying them.

Did we forget something? Perhaps the users of industrial printers? Well, let’s be generous. With such a large number we can take them as included.

Cool figure, huh? Do you believe it’s possible? You can bet that we do!

Projected number of makers and buyers of 3D printed products in 2019

  2015 2019
3D printers shipped (material extrusion)
(source: Gartner)
232,336 5,527,493
Installed base
(incl. shipments of two preceding years)
356,336
8,277,157
Share of multi-user printers 50% 50%
Number of users per multi-user printer 10 10
Users of multi-user printers 1,781,680 41,385,785
Users of single-user printers 178,168 4,138,579
Total 1,959,848 45,524,364
Multiple for people without access to a 3D printer,
but buying 3D printed products
1 3
People, who buy or use 3D printed products 1,959,848 136,573,091
Total makers and buyers of 3D printed products 3,919,696 182,097,454
Source: All3DP.com