The first quarter of 2017 saw both worldwide shipments and revenues in the 3D printer space increase, with activity ramping up in the midmarket, according to market research firm CONTEXT.

Shipments in the personal and desktop 3D printer segment climbed 17% year-on-year to hit 88,000 units. The average price of a personal and desktop 3D printer slid to US$970 in the first quarter, down from US$1,142 a year earlier.

This sector continues to be dominated by lower-priced printers, with 75% of shipments being of models priced at or below $1,000. In the low-end of the personal and desktop segment, XYZprinting and Monoprice continued to price aggressively and remained leaders in terms of global unit share.

In the personal and desktop 3D printer category, CONTEXT research placed XYZprinting as the volume leader, shipping 17,400 units in the first quarter generating revenue of US$8.1m. Monoprice was second in volume terms with 14,300 units, followed by Wanhao in third with 7,000 units, and Ultimaker and M3D in fourth and fifth with 6,300 and 5,900 units shipped respectively.

While the high and the low end of the 3D printer space are clearly defined, the market is currently seeing a lot of action in the grey middle ground, according to CONTEXT. The research firm classifies personal and desktop 3D printers as product with a price below US$5,000, with industrial-professional 3D printers costing in excess of US$5,000.

“Since the desktop 3D printer market began to emerge as a new category a decade ago, the $5,000 barrier has been used as the general rule-of-thumb dividing point for categories,” said Chris Connery, VP of global market research and analysis at CONTEXT.

“As the 3D printer market continues to evolve, so too do its categories, with high-end desktop printers and low-end industrial-professional printers converging more and more,” he added.