3D printing is no longer a tool purely used by manufacturers, and as a result, worldwide shipments of printers are set to climb this year.
Research firm Gartner says that 3D printer shipments of products costing less than $100,000 are expected to grow by 49 percent in 2013 to reach a total of 56,507 units.
Gartner said that shipments of 3D printers (3DPS) will increase further in 2014, growing 75 percent to 98,065 units, followed by a near doubling of unit shipments in 2015.
The firm believes that rapid developments, quality improvements and performance innovations are the cause for this explosion in popularity, and will "drive both enterprise and consumer demand."
"The 3D printer market has reached its inflection point," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. "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."
This year, combined end-user spending on 3DPs will 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 branch will reach nearly $87 million.
In 2014, spending is predicted to 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 commented. "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."
Gartner predicts that 3D printer prices will decrease during the next several years due to competition and higher sales rates, and believes that by 2015, seven of the 50 largest multinational retailers will sell 3D printers through their physical and online stores.
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