CONTEXT Research Updates deliver timely insights on key market segments.

  • PCs
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  • Imaging
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  • 3D Printing

PC Research update

PC growth unabated in January 2021 as pandemic continues to drive mobile demand

London, 26 February 2021 – The strong growth in PC sales seen in 2020 continued unabated at the start of 2021 as demand for mobile PCs remained high, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.


Higher spec devices drive huge growth in sales of consumer monitors

London, 09 Oct 2020 – Sales of monitors through distributors in Western Europe (WE) continue to thrive and grew +15% year-on-year in early Q3 2020*, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.


Inkjet MFP sales through European distribution plunge in April amid a shortage

London, 09 June 2021 – Sales of printers through European distributors fell sharply in April 2021 (by -11.3% year-on-year in terms of units), according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.


Consumer channel drives client SSD growth

London, 23 October 2020 – Although the overall client SSD market has seen low demand during the pandemic, lockdowns and home working have had a positive effect on consumer-channel sales, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

3D Printing

Impact of COVID-19 on new 3D printer shipments inconsistent across sectors and regions in 2020

LONDON, 15 April 2021 – The impact of COVID-19 on the global 3D printing industry in 2020 was vastly varied: there was new demand in some regions and sectors while business was significantly recessed in others. Worldwide revenue from 3D printing services reportedly grew marginally over the year

Sales of education notebooks in Western Europe up +38% in Q2 2021

London, 31 August 2021 – Volume sales of education notebooks through Western Europe’s largest distributors increased by +38% year-on-year in Q2 2021 as demand from institutions and households remained high, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

The rise in sales of notebooks targeted at education was lower than in previous quarters, during which a number of significant institutional deals were completed. Despite this slower growth, the volume sold to commercial channels was still up by +53% and that to retailers and consumer etailers by +20%.

The UK – the largest market for distributor sales of education notebooks – posted a small rise (+3% year-on-year) in the number of units sold during Q2 2021 following triple-digit growth in previous quarters when distributors were supplying devices to meet a large public education initiative. While there were small declines in Italy and France over the second quarter of this year, these countries had also seen earlier strong rises in education-targeted laptop sales. Spain and Germany – the second- and third-largest markets – saw triple-digit growth in Q2 2021.

The market for mobile devices for education was already growing in 2019–20, but demand from institutions surged in response to the pandemic – as did that from individual consumers. The sector will continue to provide significant sales opportunities for OEMs and the channel for the remainder of the year, although growth is likely to be slower than at the height of the pandemic.

Education notebooks, Q2 2021 Y/Y sales growth: Western European distribution

London, 9 April 2021 – Sales of large-format displays (LFDs) in Western Europe (WE) during 2020 were significantly affected by the pandemic and there have been little signs of recovery in early Q1 2021, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company. Declining sales reflected the impact of lockdown measures as LFDs are heavily used in public settings. On the positive side, sales of interactive displays remained relatively stable and have begun to grow in the last few months.

In early Q1 2021*, increased demand for cheaper LFDs coupled with reduced average selling prices (ASPs) helped to drive sales growth at the cost of revenues: overall sales declined by −1% year-on-year while revenues fell by more than −6%. Sales of displays whose ASPs fell noticeably – those with 75" and 65" screens – grew in early Q1 but, in the meantime, those of more mainstream models with 55" screens continued to fall.

Large format displays: volume sales and year-on-year growth, WE distribution

Lockdown definitely put brakes on an LFD market that was thriving in 2019; however, the last twelve months have also shown that collaboration is vital to deliver results during a pandemic. This has resulted in sales of interactives screens quickly returning to pre-pandemic levels once companies established new ways of working By Q4, these models were in higher demand and the trend has continued into early Q1 with +37% year-on-year growth in volume sales and +12% growth in revenues. It appears the pandemic has accelerated modernising and digitalisation in education as well as business; classrooms across Europe are being equipped with collaboration tools as schools and universities develop creative learning approaches for remote- and hybrid-learning environments. The challenges these ways of working pose for both teachers and students require new hardware and software. Despite economic slowdowns and shrinking government budgets, many countries have realised that investment in public education is now more important than ever. Sales of touchscreen displays designed for collaboration and classroom use more than doubled in Italy and Spain during early Q1 2021. Distributors in the UK, Germany and France saw less spectacular – but still good – increases (10- 15%). Price drops again played an important role in spurring demand, with significant reductions in the prices of many popular interactive displays – in some cases, models cost as much as −20% less than in 2019.

Interactive displays: year-on-year sales growth and ASP, WE distribution

The outlook for the industry is positive, despite the difficult environment which means the pace of recovery may remain slow. There are opportunities for the LFD industry as lockdowns gradually ease, societies begin to reopen, and the world finds out what the new normal will be. Digital signage will definitely be an effective tool for many restaurants, shops and large venues facing challenges such as safe and efficient communication and indoor traffic management. LFDs and interactive screens are likely to become integral parts of public spaces: necessities rather than novelties. The sector therefore has a good chance of making a full recovery – especially if current opportunities to innovate and contribute are fully realised.

‘* excludes last week of March 2021

Multifunction business inkjet printers drive revenue growth in July

London, 27 August 2021 – July saw printer sales through European distributors fell sharply by -6.8% year-on-year. Even so, the revenue generated during this month increased by +0.8% driven by business inkjet MFP sales, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

Supply chain disruptions and low inventory levels impacted all categories resulting in sharp declines in sales and revenue for laser and inkjet single-function printers (SFPs). However, in spite of a small fall in the number of units sold (−1.4%), revenues from inkjet MFPs grew by +13.4% thanks to a shortage of laser printers in the > EUR 300 price range leading to increased sales of business models and more expensive consumer devices.

Germany was the only one of the Top 5 Western European economies to see business inkjet MFP sales decline in July (−22.4%). Elsewhere, returns to the workplace and the rebalancing of IT budgets toward office equipment boosted sales of these devices.

Graph 1: Change in inkjet MFP sales volume and revenue – European distribution

Sales of ink-tank MFPs, which have been growing since the beginning of the pandemic, increased by +12.4% and revenue climbed at an even faster rate (+31%) as people purchased more of the reasonably priced business ink-tanks that have been released recently.

Ink-cartridge MFPs saw overall revenue growth of +9.5%, benefiting from restored demand for business printers, sales of which were up by +18.7% year-on-year and revenue by +11.4%.

Graph 2: Inkjet MFP revenue change by ink system – European distribution

Overall inkjet MFP figures were affected by severe shortages of consumer and entry-level business printers at the beginning of Q2. In May, manufacturers began to increase shipments of these products to address the backlog and new orders, leading sales and revenue to pick up in June (by +35.6% and +54.7%, respectively). Demand for these models remained high in July, although the product mix shifted toward more expensive devices – particularly mid-range and high-end business printers which still have reasonably good availability. Higher prices for entry-level business inkjet printers also contributed to solid revenue growth. Ongoing disruption to component production lines and the supply chain, container shortages, and rising shipping costs will lead to continuing shortages and volatile supply in the distribution channel so the prices of mid-range and high-end business inkjet MFPs can be expected to increase in turn.

Enterprise Networking grows significantly in April

London, 12 May 2021 –  After a challenging 2020 and beginning of 2021 for Enterprise Networking affected negatively by the working from home and business closures, European revenues show an impressive growth in April 2021 signalling a return to business as usual, according to the latest data published by CONTEXT, the IT market intelligence company.

Enterprise Networking Y/Y Revenue Growth

The monthly Y/Y revenue growth shows a very much awaited upward trend in terms of sales for the Enterprise Networking segment with April confirming the small positive gains in February and March. Furthermore, when comparing April 2021 revenues with April 2019 revenues, we observe a higher level of revenues with +3.1% for the former and this is telling about this market pandemic recovery state.

April Y/Y revenue growth

All top5 European economies are growing positively, with Southern Europe being the main driver of April 2021 significant gain of revenues compared to April 2020. UK, despite an increase of revenues is still lagging a bit behind its European counterpart. On a side note, Poland, the only country achieving an increase of revenues in 2020 vs 2019 on the Networking space, is declining by -16.4% Y/Y.

April 2021 vs April 2019 revenue growth

When comparing April 2021 versus April 2019 revenues, the country perspective is rather unequal as Italy, France and the UK are still in negative territory in terms of revenue progression. However, Germany achieves an impressive +27.1% revenue gain driving the overall European revenue growth positively. The comparison with 2019 makes sense and gives a perspective about where we are currently in terms of recovery at country level. As previously observed, Poland is growing by more than +38% in April 2021 compared to 2019 and this is mitigating the relatively strong decline we saw previously versus 2020.

Enterprise Networking Y/Y Revenue Growth

The main segments of Enterprise Networking are both enjoying solid performances in April 2021. In April 2020, the wireless segment got hit significantly by strict lockdowns all over Europe and companies having to close down, especially commercial spaces and hospitality businesses. Already in Q1, this segment was growing positively, it is not unexpected to see such a revenue gain in April 2021. The real good news come from the switching segment as it was the one lagging behind for most of 2020 and 2021: This is the most important category in terms of revenues, weighting around 65% of Enterprise Networking revenues, and as a result, the positive performance in April 2021 is a major change in terms of trend. The Switching revenue level last month is higher than the one of April 2019, this is further confirming the healthy start of the Q2 2021.

Switching April Y/Y revenue growth

In this view by country for the switching segment, we observe that most of the countries show a significant revenue increase. However, the UK is still lagging behind, the slower return to the office of the workforce could be partly responsible for this state of affair with a rather strict Lockdown applied there those last few months compare to other countries in Europe.

There is no denying that we are witnessing the end of a rather challenging period as the solid April 2021 performance means that businesses are finally restarting investments on this key infrastructure sector. Furthermore, the significant gain of revenues on the switching segment signals return to the office preparation for the workforce. With vaccination rollout at full speed all over Europe, we are expecting sales of Networking appliances to continue to increase in the coming months. On top of the return to normality, Public investment in Education and health will be major drivers going forward for the Enterprise Networking space.

U.S. and Europe join China in Recovery and Acceleration of Industrial 3D Printer Shipments

LONDON, 13 July 2021 –  shipments of high-end Industrial and Design 3D printers continued to recover in Q1 2021 as deliveries into the US and Europe began to mirror the recovery previously seen in China. In the Industrial price class – which accounted for 52% of global 3D printer system hardware revenues over the period – unit shipments rose +43% year-on-year. The comparison is against the Covid-impacted Q1 2020 and, although strong, shipments were not back to pre-pandemic levels, trailing behind Q1 2019 by −3%. Design class printer shipments were up +11% but also remained down on pre-Covid levels, −15% below Q1 2019. The year-on-year rise for Professional printers was less impressive in the period (+7%) but the pandemic had less of an impact on this class – there was even a boost in shipments in the first half of last year. Additionally, with sales of Professional printers generally on the rise pre-pandemic, shipments were up +22% from Q1 2019 to Q1 2021. Growth rates for Personal and Kit & Hobby printers appeared to be phenomenal – at +38% and +459% respectively – but year-on-year comparisons are strange given that in Q1 2020 the factories in China producing these printers (or their key components) were shut down. Even though these two classes have performed well as-of-late, it remains to be seen how much of the recent quarter’s shipments-boon was by way of Covid-related factors and what new normal run-rates may be.


Shipments of Industrial 3D printer systems struggled during lockdowns in H1 2020 with capital expenditures from key end-markets including aerospace, automotive, healthcare and general manufacturing largely on hold. Shipment rates increased sequentially in Q3 2020 and Q4 2020 as China came back online and then as the US and Europe gained control of the pandemic. Q1 2021 shipments, while generally on the rise and up year-on-year on a strange compare, were down a little on Q4 2020 and still recessed from Q1 2019, the date which is now being used as a near-term benchmark. Shipments of metal-focused Additive Manufacturing machines were up +4% year-on-year in Q1 2021 but considerably down (−27%) on Q1 2019. On the other hand, Industrial polymer AM machine shipments for the quarter were up +74% from their Q1 2020 low point and, more importantly, +12% higher than in Q1 2019 thanks to growth from China’s UnionTech (the global leader in this price class) and a strong rebound from key Western vendors like Stratasys, Carbon, HP, 3D Systems and EOS. Having overtaken the West in H2 2020, and with the US and Europe still in recovery as vaccine rollout ramped up slowly and new Covid variants caused upsurges in many countries, China remained the largest market for new Industrial printer shipments in Q1 2021 with reportedly strong demand from its surging domestic manufacturing industry.

Chart 1: Industrial 3D Printer System Shipments and

Year-on-Year Growth by Region

DESIGN ($20K–$100K)

Industry stalwarts Stratasys, 3D Systems and EnvisionTEC (now part of Desktop Metal) collectively shipped 62% of machines in this category in Q1 2021, with most of the quarter’s Y/Y 11% growth coming by way of rising shipments from Stratasys. Western companies are the main drivers in this price class, with companies outside of Asia responsible for 81% of total shipments. However, there are reports of strong demand in China, as its manufacturing segment continues to grow, and domestic shipments there are up +66% year-on-year.


There was a ‘Covid bump’ in Professional printer shipments during H1 2020 as workers needed to mirror equipment available in their office buildings at home. Demand waned a little in 2H 2020 but accelerated again in Q1 2021 with the year-on-year increase in shipments thanks mostly to the success of products from the industry’s newest $2B company, Formlabs. Between Q1 2019 and Q1 2021, unit-volume shipments grew by +22% but the rise in system revenues has been even more impressive: key players have introduced more feature-rich products generating revenue growth of +45% over the two years.


Many vendors at this low-end of the market took the period to take stock of, and to pare down, their exploding model-count driven by the 2020 pandemic boom that resulted from consumers in lockdown taking up a new hobby or helping with their local PPE effort. Even in a seasonal lull period, Y/Y shipment growth looks phenomenal but was particularly skewed by pandemic comparisons as a year ago China was in hard lockdown. While shipments surged in 2020, supply shortages in the face of strong demand led to significant double-ordering (and double shipments) so it is not yet clear how much of this growth is sustainable and how much a result of the pandemic. Finished-good Personal printers continued to lose ground to self-assembly models with Personal shipments down -24% sequentially while Kit & Hobby shipments rose +14% Q/Q. In spite of the natural seasonal sequential shipment decline for Personal printers, the segment continued to see the increasing popularity of new, low-cost, resin-based LCD printers. Shipments of Personal LCD printers were up +20% Y/Y and accounted for 36% of all shipments in a category that had previously been dominated by models using FDM/material extrusion technology. Nearly all Kit & Hobby printers use FDM so it seems that demand for this technology has shifted into the self-assembly segment.

2021 and beyond

With new industries looking to adopt additive manufacturing to help mitigate potential supply-chain disruptions of the sort they saw in 2020, the long-term outlook for this sector is exceedingly positive. However, many vendors report an increasingly bullish outlook even for the near-term. They point to rising order rates – especially for metals 3D printing – and interest from new markets, such as the oil and gas industries. Economies are surging as they reopen, even though this process is slower in some Western nations than in the East because of ‘delta caution’ (concern about Covid variants) as Q3 begins. Global business travel has not yet resumed in earnest, so the reach of in-person multinational trade events like RAPID (Chicago) and Formnext (Germany) that are scheduled for H2 2021 is still unclear. Even so, shipments of new products continue to be a main driver of growth in the 3D printer industry indicating that markets remain eager to try new technologies in an effort to find the ever-elusive silver bullet that will meet all their needs and/or fill known holes in production capabilities. With more new products on the horizon this year than seen in recent periods, the projection for 2021 is now one of solid shipment growth compared to both 2020 and 2019 for all types of printers. Combined revenues from institutionally-focused Industrial, Design and Professional systems are forecasted to see not only an increase of +23% from 2020 but also to see a rise of +5% from 2019, showing increased optimism for a quicker bounce-back.

Chart 2: System Revenues and Forecasts by Material and Process

(Industrial, Professional and Design Printers Combined)

Industry leader Stratasys has doubled down on polymer 3D printing, adding new modalities to its portfolio, and is expected to ship powder bed fusion and vat photopolymerization solutions this year. HP’s Jet Fusion metal binder-jetting technology is expected to begin to be readily available globally, and newcomer Xerox looks set to bring their metal technology to the market. Composites leader Markforged is now teasing larger-format solutions while Desktop Metal is not only continuing the roll-out of new composite and metal binder-jetting systems but also looking to bolster their new EnvisionTEC acquisition with more production-centric polymer systems. Rising start-ups, such as Nexa3D and Essentium, and long-time industrial stalwarts, such as SLM Solutions and ExOne, have recently introduced new models or technologies, or are on the cusp of delivering previously announced solutions. All this activity bodes well for growth in 2021 – as long as global Covid recovery is not halted. The longer-term outlook remains bullish for the AM technologies most focused on volume serial production (including powder bed fusion and vat photopolymerization of polymers, and binder-jetting of metals) as the move of 3D printing into serial production, rather than merely prototyping, accelerates.

*Price-class categorisation is based on fully assembled finished goods for Personal, Professional, Design and Industrial systems; Kit & Hobby models require DIY assembly.


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