The Canalys ( research group estimates that nearly 133,000 3D printers were shipped worldwide in 2014, a substantial increase of 68% from 2013. Additionally, market revenue from 3D printers and their associated materials and services rose to US$3.3 billion, an increase of 34% from 2013.

“We’ve seen the 3D printing industry go from strength to strength in 2014,” says research analyst Joe Kempton. “As we expected, the holiday season saw the most significant growth, particularly in the consumer segment, with many users buying their first 3D printer. A combination of falling prices, a wider range of technologies on offer and improved printing speeds helped fuel this demand.”

In the fourth quarter of 2014, Canalys estimates that total market revenue surpassed US$1 billion for the first time in a single quarter, and some 41,000 3D printers were shipped worldwide, an increase of 24% sequentially. Regionally, the Americas continued to account for the majority of shipments, at 42%, with EMEA accounting for 31% and APAC accounting for 27%. Approximately three quarters of all 3D printers shipped in the fourth quarter of 2014 were priced under US$10,000.

“Low-priced consumer and prosumer 3D printing has made leaps in terms of technological ability, including those coming through crowdfunding portals such as Kickstarter,” says Kempton. “Whereas these consumer printers used to be almost exclusively material extrusion devices, we’ve seen large growth rates in the vat polymerization segment as prices have fallen, which means more options for consumers. There were large, positive growth rates for the dominant consumer players, such as MakerBot and Ultimaker, but also substantial increases in shipment numbers from Chinese vendors, such as XYZPrinting, which have benefited from creating consumer-friendly 3D printers at impressively low price points.”

“We also saw incredibly healthy growth from the enterprise side of the market,” adds Rachel Lashford, vice president of Analysis. “Vendors such as Voxeljet improved their performance, buoyed by impressive fourth quarter (Q4) results. Many 3D printing companies have begun to ramp up spending on research and development to prepare for HP’s move into the market in 2016. But we’ve also seen the more traditional technology companies begin to find their purpose in the market too.”

Intel has become a major player here in a range of capacities, from supplying the i7 processor for HP’s upcoming Multi Jet Fusion printer, to implementing its 3D RealSense cameras into smart phones and tablets, such as the Dell Venue Pro 8000. While the 3D scanning capabilities these devices offer is currently limited, they pave the way for a future of consumer content generation via handheld devices.

“As the cost of entry into this market has fallen, we’ve also consistently seen new entrants and new technologies emerge on a regular basis,” adds Kempton. “Companies such as Voxel8 and Carbon3D have differentiated themselves with unique material printing properties, innovative technical abilities and enhanced printing speeds. These firms have ignited press interest around the world with their groundbreaking work and may soon see themselves become acquisition targets. ”

Canalys expects 2015 to see the largest number of acquisitions in the 3D printing space so far.