Hardware analysts at IDC are estimating that 3D printer shipments will grow 10 times in the period between now and 2017. Printers, once the provenance of hackers and engineers, will soon be household commodities.
“Print is extending beyond output on media to the creation of an actual object, and that presents incredible opportunity,” quoth Keith Kmetz, VP at IDC. “While traditional print technologies are facing maturity, 3D printers will see worldwide unit shipments grow by 10 times over the forecast period, and worldwide hardware value will more than double in the short term.”
IDC cites the move by HP to enter the 3D printing market in 2014 as well as Konica Minolta’s agreement to distribute higher-end 3D printers. Add in the mid-level players like Makerbot and upstarts like Afinia and Lulzbot and you have a robust market. Furthermore, patents controlling the process of laser sintering are set to expire in 2014, thereby opening up new possibilities for the new home 3D printer. Because patents often discourage the small manufacturer from exploring a particular technology, this patent expiration should improve things considerably in the metal and plastic printing front. O brave new world, That has such printers in’t!