Tag Archives: Printing

Don’t dismiss the Printer

I wondered why IT sales are doing so well, despite these extraordinary, uncertain times with Brexit, growing isolationism across the rest of Europe and insults thrown between Trump and Korea. According to the latest figures from the CONTEXT Distribution panel, revenues are up in the Eurozone by 6.7% compared to last year, with the UK steaming ahead with revenue growth of nearly 13%.

My colleagues are often blogging about the exciting new or “interesting” products that start to appear in our sales data – wearable devices, 3D printers, games consoles, mobile phones. Printers, on the other hand, can sometimes be overlooked but this is a market not to be ignored. In fact, in Germany, which represents around 20% of all revenues we pick up from the Distribution channel for IT products, Printing Consumables is ranked 2nd, behind only mobile computing. A similar picture emerges for France and the UK.

So, what is impacting the print market at the moment? We notice, particularly in the UK, workplaces transforming as millennials are looking beyond the traditional office. Working from home is increasing motivation and productivity and new technology is changing the way we work. Vendors are faced with new opportunities, and are rising to the challenge of how to best support the customers’ needs, be it savings on print costs, digitization, unified platforms – essentially, solutions for wherever your ‘office’ is at this precise moment.

Each quarter, the shift is moving from single to multi-function printers. We demand more from a printer than just printing. Unit sales of Inkjet and Laser multi-function printers grew around 6% in Q1 this year and now account for around 70% of all printers sold in Western Europe.

Inkjets are marking their return in the B2B sector with consistent double digit revenue growth of both the consumer and the business inkjets since Q2 2016. With more emphasis on lower print costs for businesses, vendors, particularly Epson and HP, are moving further into the higher price bands with revenues for business inkjets over Euro 400 growing by 37% year-on-year in Q1 2017. Business inkjets now account for almost 40% of all printer revenue in the SMB channel.

Finally, we’re also seeing a return in consumer confidence in some of the countries that have been struggling in the last couple of years. Spain has demonstrated an overall growth year-on-year of 16% in the print market, with a 12% growth in IT sales overall.

So, World disorder? I guess so, but business goes on and the printer market is still alive and well.

by DC

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Thoughts on HP Samsung acquisition

Last month, HP Inc. formally announced its acquisition of Samsung’s printer business in a deal valued at $1.05B – the largest in its history – bringing in 6,500 printing patents, over 1,300 engineers and researchers worldwide, as well as numerous channel partners. The acquisition is expected to be closed within a year, after which Samsung agreed to invest in HP through open market equity purchases of between $100m and $300m.

Their stated ambition? Disruption of the $55B Copier Segment.

But why now? To summarise, as the printed page continues to decline in an era of digitised private and professional communication, printer vendors are fighting it out to sustain revenues and market share. One major opportunity to do so resides in the contractual business space, which holds the promise of additional, ongoing revenues from the sale of supplies and services.

Will it work? Both Samsung and HP have failed in the past to make much headway in a market currently dominated by Xerox, Ricoh, Canon and Konica Minolta. With its acquisition however, HP appears to be in a particularly strong position to accelerate its efforts to crack the copier dealer channel, gain market share, and grow its contractual managed print business.

Indeed, combining Samsung’s A3 know how with its own proprietary technology, HP Inc. is confident that they have a strong value proposition and strategy in place to disturb the copier market space. Its new A3 LaserJet and Page Wide printers mount a comprehensive challenge to A3 incumbents: plugging the gaps in its portfolio, and offering reduced cost per page, affordable colour printing, as well as lower servicing costs for partners.

This being said, these are still early days. Certainly, HP Inc.’s strategy is appropriate, and their offering meets market demands. It is hard however to predict how the channel and HP Inc.’s competitors will respond, and the extent to which they will be able to effectively leverage Samsung’s technology, people, and channel partnerships – a space therefore to watch closely.

by ZB

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Why Makers are not Consumers in 3D Printing

The mainstream curiosity for 3D printing seemed to hit its apex between 2012 and 2014: a period in which the market witnessed sizable growth with sales of personal/desktop 3D printers doubling each consecutive year. Sales subsided a little in 2015 when there was year-on-year market growth of just 33% rather than the 124% seen from 2013 to 2014. Demand remains, however, as shown by lower prices, new brands entering the market and the emergence of even lower price points. The interest in this area is especially evident from recent Kickstarter campaigns from Tiko and OLO, both of which set records and saw pre-orders in excess of 16,000 units each!

But who is buying these printers? General, at-home consumers? Surely not. To the uninitiated, 3D printing can seem novel and fun and, no doubt, some uninformed consumers have purchased devices only to be disillusioned by how hard they are to actually use. This is what separates Consumers from Makers. Makers like to tinker and “make” things (not just consume them). For example, one of the details of desktop 3D printing that is rarely talked about is the effect that the materials used have on how easy the printer is to use.

I am a maker who purchased a 3D printer over a year ago and I use my printer on a daily basis, with my usage growing all the time. Here is what I’ve learned. I purchased a delta-style FDM printer (the most popular type of desktop machine) and have come to recognize that even when considering only the various plastics suitable for material extrusion printers there is quite a variety and each operates in its own way.

Materials include nylon (very durable, but vulnerable to water), acrylics (for smaller items with much detail), PET and its derivatives (to make plastic bottles and food containers), ABS (made from petroleum products, strong and durable) and many others, such as glow in the dark plastic or even clay for making crockery. Some personal 3D printers can also create objects in “wood” which is, of course, actually a mixture of plastics and wood filament that can be melted without burning.

elephant

The most popular material for personal 3D printers is biodegradable thermoplastic PLA, produced from renewable resources such as corn. It is the best material for beginners as it sticks well to the surface of the printer’s bed (build plate), solidifies quickly, and provides fairly predictable results. I would recommend those who are taking their first steps in 3D printing use the same material until they start to get a feel for their printer. Once someone has chosen to become a 3D printing maker, learning the qualities of different materials is a priority because it is essential that the temperature, printing speed, extrusion rate, retraction distance and so on are adjusted to the correct levels for each material. Many of these adjustments can (or cannot) be done by way of “slicer” software – another nuance of desktop 3D printing that keeps it from becoming more mainstream.

FDM printers not only have different plastics that require different trial-and-error settings, but different brands’ versions of the same materials are often different (because manufacturers may use different additives, for example). The final print result may vary, even when using material from the same manufacturer, when a different colour is used.

As a result, when trying out a new material, there is always a risk of layers sagging or the printer nozzle becoming clogged. The same can happen if the wrong temperature is selected or as a result of inaccurate bed levelling. There is no WYSIWYG in desktop 3D printing, that’s for sure.

While these nuances might be quite frustrating for a general consumer, such tinkering is what makers live for. This is what makes 3D printing a hobby, which I continue to enjoy. The great variety of materials available creates a vast landscape where those who love new technologies and love to experiment can find many exciting turns and challenges and develop new skills. Here designers and engineers can implement their ideas and fulfill their ambitions – the possibilities are limitless!

by NF

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Spotlight on 3D Printing

The Global 3D Printer market saw great changes last year with some high profile companies in the additive manufacturing market scaling back their expectations for the newer, desktop side of the market.

Over the course of 2015, the total market saw a growth of +30% in terms of total printers shipped marked by a +33% year-on-year growth for Desktop/Personal printers but -9% fewer Industrial/Professional 3D Printers.

In the Desktop/Personal 3D Printer sector, Taiwanese vendor XYZprinting remained the global leader in Q4’15, extending its share to 31% for the period and 21% for the full calendar year. The 2nd half of the year witnessed the de-emphasis of the sale of Desktop 3D Printers to consumers by former market leaders Stratasys/MakerBot and 3D Systems/Cubify, a mantle picked up by others including XYZprinting and M3D. The period also witnessed the largest crowdsourced effort to date for 3D Printers with the pre-sale of over 16,000 units of the $179 Tiko 3D printer, expected to arrive during 2016.

The Industrial/Professional portion of the 3D Printing market struggled as anticipated in Q4’15. This Industrial/Professional side sector continues to be characterised by a wide range of technologies and price points, catering to a number of vertical markets with no one technology offering a silver bullet for all applications.

Since the 3D Printer industry consists of a wide range of prices for the various types of 3D Printing technologies, the market is often benchmarked not only on units, but also on revenue from the sale of printers. Doing so helps to show the growing importance of Metal 3D Printing overall with 2015 seeing three of the top five vendors all mostly concentrating on metal additive manufacturing (EOS, SLM Solutions and Arcam).

Looking into the future, we are forecasting the total global market for 3D Printing including not only printer Hardware, but also Materials and Services to grow from $4.1B in 2015 to $16.2B by 2020.

We will be hosting a short market briefing this Thursday (21st April, highlighting both market figures and vendor rankings in the 3D Space. To register, simply click here.

by CC

 

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3D Printing: Challenges for the IT Channel

Industry analysts are often asked about the “tipping points” for various technologies. The active involvement of the $135bnIT global distribution market may just be one of the major elements that creates such a tipping point for 3D printing.

But there are challenges on both sides of this equation. For major broad-line distributors, many 3D printer companies are just too small to deal with or are too unfamiliar with the IT channel to bother with at the moment. For the manufacturers of the relatively new breed of personal/desktop 3D printers (those mostly under $5K), the IT channel is a strange, gigantic, unknown entity with rigid terms and conditions, which seem unfriendly to newcomers.

Even 3D-printer vendors who have operated in the professional space with larger, more expensive printers seem to be happy with their legacy direct resellers, many of whom they have been partnered with for decades. But the hype of 3D printing over the last few years and the emergence of this desktop/personal breed of 3D Printers (which, to the channel, act and feel much as any other PC peripheral) potentially calls into question the ability of legacy distribution to push the industry to the next level. The technology keeps getting better and the lines between desktop and professional 3D printers continue to blur, but good products are only part of the marketing mix: the industry seems to be begging more and more each day for a closer relationship between 3D printer companies – new and old – and the IT channel.

The entrance into the market of long-time industry stalwart HP will help. HP knows the IT channel and the IT channel knows HP. HP Inc’s entrance into this market in 2016 will be from the PC side of the split company and will continue to legitimize the technology both on a broad level and within IT circles. This entry will be in the professional space, not the desktop printer space; however, many assume that HP desktop 3D printers will not be too far behind as both the PC industry and HP desperately search for new areas of growth.

While HP’s entrance into the market may indeed be a tipping point, strides are already being made in the nascent desktop 3D printer market, with the top brand in the space, XYZprinting, being an excellent example of this. Part of this company’s success can be attributed to its familiarity with the IT channel through other products in their portfolio, which allows it to quickly place its 3D printers in the global IT distribution market. Stratasys/MakerBot has also been seen to be embracing the channel more, as has 3D Systems (and vice versa: the channel is embracing them). Regional brands can also be found in IT distribution across the globe, collectively allowing this segment to see a 249% year-on-year growth in sell-through from Q2 2014 to Q2 2015 in the EMEA region alone.

So, as the IT channel continues to look for ways to grow beyond single-digit rates and 3D printing looks for ways to get printers into the hands of SMBs, educational institutions, engineering labs and the like, it seems inconceivable that the two cannot grow together.

by CC

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Investing in the long-term viability of the 3D Printing market is not difficult, but investing in 3D Printing stocks surely is

The popular press is filled with stories about 3D printing; some sensational, some more factual/measured. Headlines continue to highlight guns made using 3D printers, advances in medicine that make use of 3D printing and 3D printing of everything from food to houses and bridges – and everything in between including 3D clothing. The stories themselves may have their merits, and each news bite gives a snapshot of the current market or how it is growing and will continue to grow, but many of the headlines can be misinterpreted.

For instance, at the moment, the number of 3D printers sold that actually produce food is negligible and it is not yet possible to print complete organs. So, if you are just reading the headlines, you are only seeing part of the Additive Manufacturing/3D-Printing (AM3DP) market.

Likewise, if you are only following the stock prices of pure-play companies in the AM3DP space, then your impression of the market might be significantly different to the reality. Many an article has been written about the disconnect between the ebbs and flows of stock prices and the real and perceived growth of the industry. Investing in 3D Printing has turned out to be a real challenge, since there is little or no correlation between stock prices and industry growth.

A quick examination of the most visible publicly traded 3D Printing companies over recent years indeed shows that they continued to see solid quarter-to-quarter growth in their collective revenues but that their average stock prices went in the opposite direction in 2014. Before this period, there was an even greater spike in average stock prices as expectations for the 30-year-old technology became overinflated as a result of increased visibility brought on by events such as the annual Consumer Electronics Show and the proliferation of 3D-printed gun stories.

New investing challenges arise as market stalwarts Stratasys and 3D Systems reported lower-than-expected earnings again in Q2.  Each of these companies, and every company associated with 3D Printing, remains quite bullish on the market, however.

by CC

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An interview with CONTEXT’s new VP for Global Research Analysis: Chris Connery

What’s your role at CONTEXT, Chris?
As VP for Global Analysis and Research, I will be helping CONTEXT expand its technology tracking and forecasting services beyond the EMEA region to offer a top-down global view of various key ICT market segments.  We are introducing a new 3D-Printing service that offers a global view of these markets (and of the collective market total) by tracking the space quarterly by key regions and technologies as well as leverage supply-chain based forecast methodologies to project them going forward.

What attracted you to CONTEXT in the first place?
CONTEXT has been well known in the ICT industry for many years.  In a prior life, my Marketing and Marketing Intelligence teams were CONTEXT subscribers.  The value of deep, channel level sell through data has always been appreciated by me whether in my brand management roles in the first half of my career or on the analyst side here in the second half.

Where were you before?
I am now headed into my 25th year participating in the IT industry. The first half of my career was focused brand management, marketing and product development for leading US and Japanese brands in the IT sector including Zenith, NEC and Mitsubishi.  In the early 2000s I moved into the Analyst side of the sector with DisplaySearch, which leveraged key value-chain research to build insights and forecasts. US research company NPD acquired DisplaySearch in 2005 to expand its global presence.  At NPD, I continued to manage global efforts for research, analysis and forecasting for PC related markets but then turned my attention to the 3D-Printing space a few years ago.

What aspects of your career thus far are you most proud of?
I had the privilege of launching some of the world’s first notebook PCs while with Zenith Data Systems in the 90s and some of the world’s first flat-panel products when with NEC and NEC-Mitsubishi.  Being involved in product development and seeing core manufacturing from the factory-out was an invaluable experience for me early in my career.  Then being able to champion products to markets across the globe added to this excitement.

What never fails to bring a smile to your face?
Seeing children interact with technology for the first time. Young children seeing a 3D-Printer for the first time today, act much like those using their first PC in the 80s or their first Tablet not that long ago.  “I am not quite sure what it can do for me, but I WANT one” is often the sentiment.

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?
An early mentor of mine would often note “through chaos there is opportunity.”  I’ve always appreciated helping to bring order to chaos, such as when championing a product to market or when helping to bring focus to emerging market segments by way of hard, quantifiable data.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Aside from spending time with family here in the US, I very much enjoy travelling.  When travelling for work or for pleasure I continually think of the Mark Twain quote “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

 

 

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