While I’m wary of analyst reports that offer exact figures, Gartner expects 56,507 sub-$10,000 3D printers to ship in 2013, a 49 percent jump over last year. They also expect 98,065 units sold in 2014 and double that in 2015. Their report, however ridiculous, still points to one important thing: that 3D printing is now on Gartner’s radar and that they expect the market to grow considerably.
This is no surprise. Given the rise of “cheap” printers flooding the market and improved home-brew and DIY models, I’d expect shipments to hit at least 100,000 by 2016. Because these printers are perfect for home hobbyists and students and because you can now get a fairly rudimentary printer for around $500, there is no reason not to outfit a high school lab, home workshop, or dorm room with a 3D printer to go next to the 2D printer.
Gartner offered a bit of blar-de-blar to back up their claims.
“As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing’s potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations,” continued Mr. Basiliere. “In the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive.”
Because Gartner is now paying closer attention to the space, however, expect investors to do the same. Companies like Makerbot have already proven that 3D printing is a lucrative and solid business and many 3D printing companies offer a perfect storm of buzzwords in their business plan – open, popular, innovative, and, most important, profitable.
Will 3D printing grow from “$288 million to more than $5.7 billion by 2017 as Gartner claims? Sure, why not. Asian manufacturers are already pumping out simple 3D printers en masse using the same techniques used to make PC cases and most deposition-type printers are quite simple – an extruder and some rails are all you need to make a working PLA printer, for example. However I doubt that the big players will figure out how to break into the 3DP business. Could Dell ever make a printer, for example? I doubt it. They may rebadge and sell someone elses’, but I see it as a strange fit for them.
That said, good on Gartner for amping up 3D hype with its report. Where analysts go investment follows and I can only begin to imagine what the future looks like for home printing.