Worldwide shipments of 3D printers will reach a total of 100,000 units in 2014. World demand for 3D printing is projected to rise every year and total 3D printer shipments are forecast to reach 6 million units in 2018, according to the Taiwan Industrial Economics and Knowledge Research Center (IEK).
The market has great potential for further growth, said IEK. The current limitations in 3D printing are printing speed, printing materials development, printed component size and resolution, and colors. In addition, 3D printers are still considered expensive and out of reach for most people, said the researchers, while the simplest model priced at US$800-US$1,500.
But today's advanced additive manufacturing methods are capable of much more than just making concept models and prototype parts, and have already proven their worth as complementary enhancements to traditional manufacturing processes. Tung Chung-ming, an administrator at the IEK, expressed his confidence in 3D printing and its market.
3D printers are suitable for making low-volume, high-complexity parts and designs that would typically be impossible to build with conventional machining methods or would otherwise be too expensive to manufacture.
In the past three years 3D printing processes have evolved to include many more materials, from plastic, gypsum to carbon fiber and metal. Tung expects within the next three to five years, more and more desktop printing would offer users ability to fabricate composite materials with pre-determined mechanical properties.