3D printing market booms

The 3D printing market surpassed $1bn in revenues during 2012 and growth is expected to continue through all target sectors to reach $20bn by 2025.

These figures come from an IDTechEx Research report called '3D Printing 2015-2025: Technologies, Markets, Players', which also shows that printer manufacturers are reporting a surge in sales as awareness of the technologies and what they offer grows.

The oil and gas industry is the emerging user of 3D printing with the highest forecast growth followed by the aerospace industry. When significant penetration has occurred into both markets, 3D printing in these industries will lock into the capital expenditure cycles associated with them and, as is the case for CNC machines, periodic fluctuations in sales will occur.

Price remains an issue at the high end of the market with several users reporting that prices of these printers have not moved significantly in contrast to the low to mid-range printers. Printers that used to cost $1m still cost just as much.

Historically most 3D printer manufacturers exclusively sold the materials consumed by their printers, a practice known as vendor lock-in that is commonly seen in 2D inkjet and laser printers. However, an alternative business model where end-users are free to buy consumables from any supplier, known as the free market value chain, has been steadily growing.

Driven primarily by the expiration of key patents, this free market has allowed the prices of both printers and materials to fall. However, innovative technologies that maintain clear key differentiators, particularly while they are still protected by core patents, will continue to permit vendor lock-in.


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