Analysts at Canalys say the 3D printing market will hit $16.2 billion by 2018 – representing an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.7% from 2013 to 2018.
“This is a market with enormous growth potential now that the main barriers to up-take are being addressed. Advances in technology are yielding faster print times and enabling objects to be printed in greater combinations of materials, colors and finishes,” said Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd.
“Crucially, prices are also falling, making the technology an increasingly feasible option for a broad variety of enterprise and consumer uses, restricted only by computer aided design competencies and printer availability – both of which are set to improve significantly.”
According to Shepherd, 3D printing has clearly become an established technology for producing prototypes and concept models of all manner of products.
“[However], as it matures, there is clear and substantial potential across numerous sectors, such as engineering and architecture, aerospace and defense, and medical (particularly in the fabrication of custom prosthetics), for 3D printing to have a dramatic impact within five years,” he added.
In the short-term, Canalys expects printing-to-order services to drive considerable growth while penetration lags technology advances.
“There is a clear opportunity for companies to establish 3D printing service studios to address the growing demand for the custom products that this technology makes possible. That demand will continue to grow, driven by three main factors: customization potential, convenience and manufacturing efficiencies. Items can be printed and personalized to order,” Canalys research analyst Joe Kempton explained.
“They can often be printed locally, rather than necessitating designs be sent off to large, sometimes distant, manufacturing facilities. 3D printing also promises less material waste and often lower energy consumption than conventional manufacturing processes. Given these benefits and the breadth of use cases, there is no doubt that this market is set for robust and significant growth.”
More specifically, the value of the 3D printer market itself grew 109% in 2013 to $711 million and is forecast to grow 79% in 2014 to hit $1.3 billion. The market value is expected to grow to $5.4 billion by 2018, with value growth reflecting increasing commercial printer volumes and, as such, also drive growth in the volume and value of consumables shipments, including both resistant printing materials and removable or dissolvable support materials.
“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,” Shepherd concluded.
“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.”