If you've been paying any attention to the 3D printing world over the past year or two, chances are good that you understand its potential, and its expected growth as time goes on. Really, 3D printing only hit the public consciousness a couple of years ago, but already it's been used for a number of interesting things, such as medical equipment and even toys - heck, it's even printed music (albeit primitively).
According to Canalys, the sky's the limit, and from here-on-out, 3D printing will see a 45.7% growth each year, with it ultimately becoming a $16.2 billion industry by 2018. As impressive as that is, $16.2 billion is likely just the start. By that time, 3D printers will be more affordable than they are today, as well as higher in quality. By 2018, they could be affordable enough that anyone could consider bringing one into their home, while the most advanced machines on the market would continue to be used commercially.
The biggest thing to drive 3D printing growth is print-to-order business, where anyone can quickly design a product and have it printed remotely, or where someone can purchase a premade design. Because of this growth, Canalys sees this as the perfect opportunity for entrepreneurs to consider getting in on the business.
We are at the inflection point for 3D printing. It has now moved from a new and much-hyped, but largely unproven, manufacturing process to a technology with the ability to produce real, innovative, complex and robust products," says Canalys Senior Analyst, Tim Shepherd. "This is a fast-evolving market, but it is still in its infancy. Expect to see new major entrants making a significant impact in the industry in the coming years, including giants such as HP. As barriers fall, new use cases emerge, the technology improves and new entrants join, this is a market that will look very different in five years’ time.
That closing thought hits the nail on the head. 3D printing is cool now - to picture what it could be in 5 years is pretty exciting.