The 3D printing industry may still be in its infancy, but could increased adoption of the technology raise its value to billions within only a few years?
According to research firm, Canalys, yes. They predict the 3D printing market -- which includes sales, materials and third-party services -- will double in growth this year and continue to gain momentum through 2018.
The company's researchers say that the size of the market -- which reached $2.5 billion in 2013 -- will expand to $3.8 billion worldwide in 2014. By 2018, we can expect a rapid growth rate to make the 3D printing industry worth $16.2 billion.
Canalys Senior Analyst Tim Shepherd commented:
"This is a market with enormous growth potential now that the main barriers to up-take are being addressed. 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."
While already used in a variety of ways, from printing prosthetic limbs to burgers and houses, in the short term, Canalys expects printing-to-order services to drive businesses forward. With the promise of customised orders, local printing and little waste, printing-to-order businesses will prove to be the catalyst for "robust and significant growth," according to the firm.
Shepherd says that 3D printing is "still in its infancy," but as tech giants such as Hewlett-Packard invest in the business, we can expect the market to look very different in five years' time.
Image credit: Makerbot