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Review of the 3D printing industry
3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a relatively new and developing technology, with many boasts and ambitious long term goals, which threatens to completely change the way that products are manufactured. The 3D printer comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes designed to fulfil various different goals. Some are designed for in home manufacturing of fashion accessories and art designs, others with the rather loftier aims of building houses and printing human organs. Still in its infancy however, the industry faces many challenges before it can claim to be a genuine game changer in the way we manufacture and design products.
3D printing technology has been in development for a number of years, but unlike other new technologies that can arrive and then fade as more advanced options become available, the potential for this technology and many new industries that it creates, could completely change the world we live in. This is because 3D printing is essentially an entirely new method of manufacturing, one that produces less waste, is limitlessly customizable, does not require vast amounts of cheap or skilled labor and can effectively be setup wherever it is needed. This additive manufacturing process, is the basis for many different possibilities. For instance one of the most exciting is the possibility that consumers may, in the future, be able to print their own consumer items in their own homes by simply choosing an item, such as clothing or art, from an online schematic database and then printing it on their own home based 3D printer.
Already there are some large players in operation in the market that are producing 3D printers for many different uses such as rapid prototyping, domestic hobbies, tool design, medical and complex instruments, weapons parts manufacturing, aerospace parts manufacturing and automotive parts manufacturing. 3D printers could also eventually extend to every home and change the way that consumers buy items. But despite the huge range of possibilities for the industry there are problems that are yet to be overcome, such as high prices, lack of R&D investment and huge copyright issues that could slow down or even cripple the industry.
The 3D printing market is currently feeding the growth of other new industries such as 3D scanning technology, CAD software design and schematic databases. As with new developing technologies there has been difficulties finding appropriate ways to monetize the technology. For instance in the online database markets there is a problem monetizing the schematics that allow people to print items and so far different companies have come up with different solutions. Some charge for the plans per print whilst others plan to make them free. There are also elements in the market that are creating potentially “illegal” download sites similar to existing torrent websites.
The industry is constantly developing and improvements on designs, accessibility and technology are constantly taking place. This is meaning that 3D printers are becoming cheaper, more available to everyone and the range of things they can do is increasing. However, as mentioned, there are problems that need to be overcome before this technology will fulfil some of its promising potential.
For further reading download our case study on the 3D printing industry with your Advantage subscription or visit the MarketLine store to purchase. Click here for more information.