3D printing is still in its infancy. But, to use an overused phrase, it is the future. From home use to enterprise use, 3D printing will continue to grow and break into new areas. With that comes price reductions. So much so that Gartner predicts enterprise-class 3D printers (read: 3D printers not made by hipsters in Brooklyn) will drop under the $2,000 mark by 2016.
The report pegs continued adoption and progression in 3D technology as the cause for the price drop. It’s all rather predictable but still a welcomed whisper of the future.
The current cost of 3D printing relegates it to the well-off hobbyist or successful small businesses. Most dads, for instance, cannot yet afford one to print game pieces with his son. On the flip side, most small businesses cannot afford the high sticker price of professional 3D printers to occupy space next to an aging HP OfficeJet.
But, as with most emerging technology, the report goes on to say that the gradual progression will move the devices from “niche adoption to broad acceptance, driven by lower printer prices, the potential for cost and time savings, greater capabilities, and improved performance that drives benefits and markets.”
“Businesses must continuously monitor advances to identify where improvements can be leveraged,” said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner, in a released statement. “We see 3D printing as a tool for empowerment, already enabling life-changing parts and products to be built-in struggling countries, helping rebuild crisis-hit areas and leading to the democratization of manufacturing.”
Right now, it’s likely that even small businesses able to afford a 3D printer do not see a need for one. 3D printing is growing and expanding as new uses are constantly formed for the technology. In short most small businesses do not need a 3D printer yet.
At this point 3D printing still needs more than just a lower cost of entry. It needs an ecosystem. It needs a retail marketplace where designers can sell professional-level designs rather than just giving them away on Thingiverse. 3D printing needs local retailers and repair shops. It needs to make inroads into lower educational institutions (lower prices will help there). But 3D printing needs to get here. After all, it’s the future.