According to Gartner, spending on 3D printers is estimated to be at $669 million in 2014, a year-on-year growth of 62%. 3D printer vendors are in fierce competition to grab market share and prices have plummeted from over $20,000 to under a $1,000 now. And with this comes the impending price war.
MakerBot has decided to participate in this price war by introducing a reduced functionality, low priced printer, the MakerBot Replicator Mini, while still keeping their premium ZBot at the high end. They now have a portfolio of printers that range from $6,499 to $1,375. With competitors expected to launch a sub $1,000 printer this year and even kick starter to build a $100 3D printer, this gives MakerBot the ability to compete on price with the low end competitors, while protecting the market position of their flagship ZBot printer.
This will be a crowded market in the future. 11 key technology patents will expire in 2014, which will further increase competition in the market. In such an environment how do companies differentiate themselves and drive adoption? Attractive prices will no doubt drive consumer demand in this phase of the 3D printing market. But besides offering lower prices, companies should focus on usability. There will be many first time users in the market who need help understanding the product and its functionality. 3D printing currently requires a CAD model to print anything. Companies should make it simpler and easier for users to develop these models and print their product. This is just one example of how vendors can help first time users and bring more new users into the market.
Making the solution more usable will broaden the scope of applications. Vendors need to invest in understanding how customers are using 3D printers and why your product will be best suited for that application. This will give you invaluable information on how to position your product, price it appropriately and drive adoption.