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Decline or growth for 3D-printing resellers in 2021?

Independent research completed by 3D Alliances on the performance of 3D printing resellers in 2021 reveals that the sales of software, hardware, and materials for 3D printing solutions grew an average of 18% compared with 2020. Furthermore, 45% of resellers reported records in their reselling businesses.

After the dramatic global turbulence of 2020 and a very challenging business year for the 3D printing industry, 2021 brought much positivity for AM companies, including high valuations because of the 3D printing stock’s surge, SPAC mergers, massive fund-raising, and increased awareness about additive manufacturing and its impact on supply chain challenges. These events triggered manufacturers worldwide to accelerate the adoption of additive manufacturing solutions after acknowledging the benefits of independent, local, and agile manufacturing.

The study analyzed the sales performance of 3D printing resellers selling 3D software, 3D printers (ranging from low to high-end solutions), automated post-processing systems, and materials for 3D printing.

Sales performance in 2021

The study shows that in 2021, resellers increased the sales of 3D printing solutions by 18% compared with the previous year. 3D printers’ sales increased across all solutions categories from low to high-end systems. Moreover, 45% of the resellers reported a record business year, improving on their performances before the global pandemic.

A significant change in selling AM solutions in 2021 compared with the previous year was stronger demands for production systems, while in 2020, most of the interest was for low-end solutions. This shift indicates many companies were waiting for the right trigger to accelerate the adoption of AM technologies and looking for independent, local, and agile manufacturing capabilities that would meet their needs.

Key success factors

The study also analyzed the main reasons for resellers’ business growth success in 2021. One of the most common reasons was a decision in the second half of 2020 to increase digital marketing and lead generation activities. With no physical tradeshows, many resellers used their marketing budgets to invest in online campaigns, approaching the customers that could most benefit from AM during the pandemic.

As physical tradeshows returned in 2021, most resellers shifted part of their budgets back to face-to-face events and, as a result, reported more efficient and effective marketing and lead generation campaigns comprising a mix of online and face-to-face events.

Reseller outlook for 2022

In general, resellers predict that the strong demand from the market for 3D printing solutions will continue, with a particular focus on manufacturing solutions of end-use parts. Today, these types of solutions are still a small part of the business, but growth in this area is imminent.

A major challenge is promoting the value proposition of the solutions being sold. Due to the increased number of vendors in the market, marketing the benefits of each solution and educating the customer base is more difficult today. It’s also a fine balance of how to approach potential customers without overloading them with information that, in many cases, only confuses them.

The survey was concluded with a remark from many resellers concerning some of the M&A events in the past year. Concern was voiced that these types of events change the structure of their business at short notice, and that makes it even more challenging to keep their businesses on the right track. Nevertheless, they are optimistic and confident that the market will continue to grow and their reselling businesses with it.

Survey Methodology: the survey included CEOs of over 50 resellers from the USA, Europe, and Asia that are selling 3D printing solutions from 3D software, 3D hardware, and materials for 3D printing.


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