Writing for EDN, Suzanne Deffree confirms that 3D printing is set for “explosive growth” in 2014 and 2015. Indeed, analysts at Gartner expect worldwide shipments of 3D printers to increase 75 percent in 2014, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.
“Atmel is one of the hardware makers answering the 3D-printer market call,” writes Deffree. “Atmel AVR XMEGA and megaAVR MCUs can be found in the majority of 3D printers on the market, including the popular MakerBot and RepRap rapid prototyping system brands.”
Andreas Eieland, Atmel’s senior product marketing manager for Flash microcontrollers, says printers like MakerBot and RepRap enable anyone, whether a DIY Maker or professional engineer, to create 3D objects.
“There are now two or three 3D printer companies that have a product that you don’t need to be an engineer at heart to make them work. They are so easy anyone can have them up and running in a few hours,” he explains.
“We have this huge development on the low-end side where for a couple hundred dollars you can build something yourself. [However], on the high end, 3D printers need to find a way to start printing harder materials, like metals. On the low end, the price still needs to come down for professional solutions.”
Nevertheless, emphasizes Deffree, 3D printing technology is reaching new heights and is now light years beyond the creation of simple Yoda busts.
“[This includes] everything from creating replacement parts for personal furnishings and gadgets, to replicating vital organs, making their way into space for use on the International Space Station [and] offering new home construction techniques. The possibilities for the near-term future are endless,” she adds.
“I hope people realize the potential of 3D printing. It’s more than toys and a small version of their own heads. There’s huge potential here in reducing the waste and turnover of products we have in our houses. At the same time there’s an even bigger opportunity in developing something – whatever they need so they can stick with what they have.”