Gartner: 49% growth for 3D printer shipments in 2013

Analysts at Gartner say worldwide shipments of 3D printers (3DPs) priced less than $100,000 will increase 49 percent in 2013, reaching an impressive total of 56,507 units. Shipments are slated to increasing further in 2014, jumping 75 percent to 98,065 units, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.

According to Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3DP technologies are primarily responsible for driving enterprise and consumer demand.

“As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing’s potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations,” Basiliere explained. “In the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive.”

More specifically, combined end-user spending on 3DPs will reach $412 million in 2013, up 43 percent from spending of $288 million in 2012. Enterprise spending is projected to total more than $325 million in 2013, while the consumer segment will reach nearly $87 million. In 2014, spending is slated to increase 62 percent, reaching $669 million, with enterprise spending of $536 million and consumer spending of $133 million.

From an enterprise point of view, current uses of 3D technology focus on one-off or small-run models for product design and industrial prototyping, jigs and fixtures used in manufacturing processes and mass customization of finished goods. However, as advances in 3D printers, scanners, design tools and materials reduce the cost and complexity of creating 3D printed items, the applications of 3D print technology will continue to expand to include architecture, defense, medical products and jewelry design.

As such, 3D printing will have a high impact on industries, including consumer products, industrial and manufacturing; a medium impact on construction, education, energy, government, medical products, military, retail, telecommunications, transportation and utilities; as well as a low impact on banking and financial services and insurance.

“Most businesses are only now beginning to fully comprehend all of the ways in which a 3DP can be cost-effectively used in their organizations, from prototyping and product development to fixtures and molds that are used to manufacture or assemble an item to drive finished goods,” said Basiliere. “Now that many people in the organization, not only the engineering and manufacturing department managers but also senior corporate management, marketing management and others, have heard the hype, they want to know when the business will have a 3D printer.”

Unsurprisingly, 3D printer prices are projected to decrease during the next several years due to competitive pressures and higher shipment volumes, even after allowing for providers who will be offering devices with higher performance, functionality and quality that enable them to hold the line on pricing. To be sure, 7 of the 50 largest multinational retailers will likely sell 3D printers through their physical and online stores by 2015.

“Simply experiencing the technology and conceiving ways to use it will mainly drive makers and hobbyists, not the average consumer, to purchase a 3D printer to begin with. However, we expect that a compelling consumer application — something that can only be created at home on a 3D printer — will hit the scene by 2016,” Basiliere added.

“This application, which will be the most compelling use case yet for consumer 3D printing, will arise from work done by makers and other enthusiasts who push the envelope of consumer 3D printing uses and enabled by manufacturers who develop ‘plug-and-play’ tools.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing recently entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere,architectural arenascience lab and even on the battlefield.

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