In a recent Forbes article, Natalie Burg confirmed that 3D printing is well on its way to “monumentally” changing the world – beginning with the traditional supply chain.
“The proliferation of 3D printing feels like a ‘this changes everything’ moment. The devices are making their way into businesses [and] some experts believe they’ll make their way into [mainstream] homes one day,” Burg observed. “[However], it all begins with disrupting the supply chain. With the power to print customized, single items quickly, 3D printers in businesses and homes will entirely change how goods move around the world.”
Indeed, a 2012 report from Transport Intelligence – titled “The Implications of 3D Printing for the Global Logistics Industry” – examines what impact such a paradigm shift would likely have.
“A proportion of goods which were previously produced in China or other Asia markets could be ‘near-sourced’ to North America and Europe,” the report concluded. “This would reduce shipping and air cargo volumes.”
Gavin Davidson of NetSuite expressed similar sentiments.
“It’s not just for the designer of the end product, but imagine a global supply network where every supplier has a 3D printer that the designer can ‘print’ to at any time,” he said. “It’s almost Star Trek’s replicators.”
Meanwhile, the Harvard Business Review noted that the 3D printing of commercial products will likely prompt the manufacture of goods which are “infinitely more customized.”
As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the rapidly evolving 3D printing industry is projected to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016, with Credit Suisse analyst Julian Mitchell recently expressing bullish sentiments about the 3D printing market.
“Most corporate guidance defaults to the assumptions of industry consultants who estimate the 3D printing market will grow at ~20% annually,” Mitchell wrote in an industry note published on Business Insider.
“We challenge this assumption and attempt to quantify the addressable market by investigating the opportunities within key verticals such as aerospace, automotive, healthcare and consumer. We conclude that these four markets alone (which comprise ~ 50% of the AM market today) represent sufficient opportunity to sustain 20-30% annual revenue growth, bolstered by the technology’s transition from prototyping to end use parts and expansion into metals.”
According to Credit Suisse team, the most rapid expansion of 3D printing will be seen in the consumer market.
“[This] is the fastest-growing portion of the 3D printing market, with expectations for 100%+ YoY growth in 2013. [The Atmel-powered] Makerbot describes its offering as intended for the ‘pro-sumer’ market (manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $2,200-2,800), expecting many systems to be dual professional / personal use among small business owners or serious hobbyists,” Mitchell added.
It should be noted that the DIY Maker Movement has used 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 arena, science lab and even on the battlefield.