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Anne-Isabelle Choueiri gave her kids a 3D printer last Christmas when they were hailed as the next big thing. Almost a year later, it's been all but forgotten.
"It's been recycled as a bedside table," Choueiri, 39, a digital consultant in New York, said of her $799 Da Vinci 1.0 AiO device from XYZprinting Inc.
The initial excitement for 3D printers in the home producing toys and parts for broken gadgets and potentially becoming as commonplace as the PC is wilting. Choueiri found her device fragile. And the results take time. A simple print of objects like a mini Eiffel tower or a lighthouse took two hours, and her kids, being kids, didn't wait around.
The flop with U.S. consumers was partly to blame for a slump in the shares of the two top manufacturers market leader Stratasys Ltd. and 3D Systems Corp. Both stocks peaked just after Christmas 2013.
Stratasys's MakerBot brand took a big hit. Its sales slid 57 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier and the company said this month it would cut 20 percent of its staff.
Stratasys is down 63 percent this year, after the stock had surged 13-fold in the five years through 2013. A year ago, 21 analysts tracked by Bloomberg recommended buying the shares. Today, only 11 do.
It's the same for 3D Systems, whose stock has sunk 61 percent this year after a 35-fold jump in that five-year period. Just four analysts rate the stock the equivalent of a buy versus 12 a year ago. Spokeswoman Stacey Witten said the company won't comment on its outlook before it reports third-quarter earnings later this fall.
Long used in manufacturing and prototyping, 3D printing reached consumers in recent years, as prices fell to as low as $300. Even though the hobbyist market remained small, excitement about possible home use rose to fever pitch.
"There was a lot of hype and misinformation" about the devices, said Terry Wohlers, president of Wohlers Associates Inc., which has tracked the 3D printer market for 28 years. "A lot of the machine manufacturers wanted you to believe every room in your home will have a 3D printer."
Sales of printers to hobbyists may drop 18 percent this year to $112 million and aren't likely to reach the levels of last year's holiday season, according to IDTechEx Research.
Home Depot Inc. has a few models available online and in fewer than 100 of its more than 2,000 stores, the company said in an e- mail. Some retailers who offer the products may not know how to market them yet, said Michael Diamond, director of industry analysis for commercial technology at NPD Group.
"People want instant gratification, so if you expect to create something in the store and watch it print in seconds, that's not going to happen," Diamond said. Retailers have pre- existing models of what's already been created with them, he said.
Much of the 30-plus-year-old industry is concentrating on its primary market: industrial applications in the aerospace, automotive and medical fields. The manufacturers are also pursuing schools and universities around the world, some of which have government grants to install 3D printers, according to Rachel Gordon, an analyst at IDTechEx.
"The opportunity in our perspective is really from the enterprise side," said Rich Garrity, a vice president at Stratasys, whose U.S. headquarters are in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. "We are still some time away before we reach a tipping point in terms of consumer adoption."
As smaller companies grab market share, analysts are projecting Stratasys's sales will drop 1 percent this year, after 55 percent growth in 2014, according to estimates compiled by Bloomberg. While revenue at 3D Systems is estimated to increase 10 percent, that's down from gains of 27 percent last year and 45 percent two years ago. Its consumer business accounted for less than 7 percent of total revenue in 2014 and 2013.
Garrity said 2015 has become a "transition year of slower growth" for Stratasys as customers digest their inventory and find new applications for the products.
"The industry benefited from the boom that happened in the last two years," Garrity said. "We and others saw the pipeline of purchase orders to be very fluid. Companies were buying multiple systems," he said. "Now they are trying to develop strategies how they are going to use the equipment."
In the market for models under $5,000, there are already more than 300 manufacturers competing for the attention of a mostly tech-savvy pool of consumers, hobbyists, schools and businesses, according to Wohlers Report.
In that pool is Scott Hanselman, a programmer for Microsoft Corp. who bought two 3D printers this year. He made a Minecraft chess set using his Dremel Idea Builder printer that he paid $999 for and calls the easier one to use. He also created a bracket for a vacuum cleaner with his other machine a Printrbot Simple Metal which he bought for $599.
Hanselman said that while he loves his gadgets, they have their quirks and one is sensitive to movement. The quality is affected simply when the air conditioning comes on or when his kids run by, he said.
"People see something new and amazing, and they think everything is the new iPad," Hanselman said. "Not everything is going to be that big."
For those less gizmo-inclined, the time and effort needed to produce anything may outshine any pleasure derived from it. Choueiri, the consultant and mother of two, said she thinks it's too early to call the devices consumer goods.
"In the end there was not much family fun and enjoyment," she said. If friends ask for her opinion, "I would tell them, 'don't buy one, they are not ready yet.' "