Antalis has hinted it may extend its equipment portfolio after entering the 3D printing kit market following a reseller agreement with Art Systems.
The deal means Antalis is a reseller for MakerBot Professional Plus and an authorised partner of Stratasys Idea Series for 3D printers that use fused deposition modelling (FDM) technology.
Paul Duffy, Antalis digital print development manager, said: “The 3D print market is growing at an unprecedented rate.
“Conservative estimates put it at $20bn (£13bn) globally in terms of machine and consumables sales and services. If it's even half of that, it's huge.”
The MakerBot range is aimed at the education market and the entry-level ‘prosumer’ sector, with four models ranging from a £1,000 to £5,000.
The Stratasys Idea range is aimed at the 3D professional wanting to create highly accurate prototypes and concept proofs with printers costing £6,500 to £14,500.
He said the quality of print on these devices meant complex, working, one-piece models could be created while the water-soluble support filament meant post-print finishing was kept to a minimum.
Paperlinx UK, which saw most of its operations fall into administration in April, entered the 3D printing market last November after signing a reseller deal with Art Systems to sell the firm’s Stratasys Ideas range of 3D printers.
Duffy, who was one of more then 700 Paperlinx staff made redundant before joining Antalis, did not rule out further ventures on selling hardware.
“It's always on the cards,” he said. “I was at Paperlinx for 15 years, but what I've seen here is a willingness to continually look at what they can offer that's new.
“If it proves commercially sustainable I don't see an issue in selling machinery, but at this moment in time our focus is on 3D print and we can't say we'll be entering wide-format or whatever.”
He added: “The market is flourishing because costs are coming down while quality is going up. What you got out of 3D machines 18 months ago wasn't very good. Now you can by a printer for £2,000 and that will give you a good impression of your 3D design.”
The Stratasys and MakerBot range enabled Antalis to offer printers at all price points depending on the customer’s specific requirements, said Duffy.
He added: “Although 3D print may be too soon for some of our customers, they will be able to learn from us and start to think about the opportunities that this technology offers.
“We have already had interest from education, copyshops, display companies, packaging specialists, personalised promotional producers and manufacturing companies.
“Our customers have heard all the myths and hype that comes with 3D printing so many are now looking for clarification – ‘what actually is 3D printing’, ‘how does it work?’”
Antalis is hosting a 3D event at its Digital Academy in Coalville, Leicestershire, on 18 November.
The deal follows recent press reports Brooklyn-based manufacturer MakerBot aimed to lay off about a fifth of its workforce across the world.
Duffy said: “I think affected staff may be from stores, but MakerBot has invested in its Brooklyn factory and is recruiting people for production lines.
“The market is competitive with around 400 vendors of equipment selling for under £1,000, so there's a big bun fight,” Duffy said.