Rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3D printing technologies will drive enterprise and consumer demand as worldwide shipments of 3D printers priced less than $100,000 will grow 49 percent in 2013 to reach a total of 56,507 units, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.
The company’s first forecast of the less-than-$100,000 consumer and enterprise 3D printer market projected shipments would increase further in 2014, growing 75 percent to 98,065 units, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.
Gartner predicts that 3D printing will have a high impact on industries, including consumer products, industrial and manufacturing, a smaller impact on construction, education, energy, government, medical products, military, retail, telecommunications, transportation and utilities and a low impact on banking and financial services and insurance.
"The 3D printer market has reached its inflection point," Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "While still a nascent market, with hype outpacing the technical realities, the speed of development and rise in buyer interest are pressing hardware, software and service providers to offer easier-to-use tools and materials that produce consistently high-quality results."
In 2013, combined user spending on 3D printers is expected to reach $412 million, up 43 percent from spending of $288 million in 2012. Enterprise spending will total more than $325 million in 2013, while the consumer segment will reach nearly $87 million. In 2014, spending will increase 62 percent, reaching $669 million, with enterprise spending of $536 million and consumer spending of $133 million.
"As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing's potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations," Basiliere said. "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."
In addition, Gartner projected that by 2015, seven of the 50 largest multinational retailers will sell 3D printers through their physical and online stores, as prices decrease during the next several years due to competitive pressures and higher shipment volumes. Meanwhile, as advances in 3D printers, scanners, design tools and materials reduce the cost and complexity of creating 3D printed items, the applications of 3D print technology will continue to expand to include areas such as architecture, defense, medical products and jewelry design.
"The hype around consumer 3D printing has made enterprises aware that the price point and functionality of 3DP has changed significantly over the last five years, driving increased shipments beginning in 2014," Basiliere said. "Most businesses are only now beginning to fully comprehend all of the ways in which a 3DP can be cost-effectively used in their organizations, from prototyping and product development to fixtures and molds that are used to manufacture or assemble an item to drive finished goods. Now that many people in the organization, not only the engineering and manufacturing department managers but also senior corporate management, marketing management and others, have heard the hype, they want to know when the business will have a 3D printer."