According to researchers at Canalys
, the size of the 3D printing market has already reached US$2.5 billion globally in 2013, and will grow to US$3.8 billion in 2014. It will continuing to experience rapid growth over the next four or five years."This is a market with enormous growth potential now that the main barriers to up-take are being addressed," said Canalys Senior Analyst, Tim Shepherd."Advances in technology are yielding faster print times and enabling objects to be printed in greater combinations of materials, colors and finishes.
Crucially, prices are also falling, making the technology an increasingly feasible option for a broad variety of enterprise and consumer uses." Shepherd said.Shepherd pointed out that 3D printing is restricted in its growth only by computer aided design competencies and printer availability – both of which are set to improve significantly. That means as it matures, there is clear and substantial potential across numerous sectors.
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," said Canalys Research Analyst, Joe Kempton."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. 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."According to the firm, the value of the 3D printer market itself grew 109% in 2013 to US$711 million and is forecast to grow 79% in 2014 to hit US$1.3 billion. The market value is expected to grow to US$5.4 billion by 2018."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," said 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."