3D Printers

3D Printer Shipments to Double in 2016

Global sales of 3D printers will more than double from last year to 2016, growing 108 percent from 219,168 shipments to 455,772, according to a new report from Gartner.

3D printing is experiencing widespread acceptance beyond specialist industries and is being used for prototyping, to augment manufacturing and to produce finished products. "Industries in a broad range employ 3D printing to a modest extent," according to Gartner, and the company predicts wider and more diverse use as new providers and processes emerge.

The 3D printing market comprises seven technologies, with material extrusion predicted to lead the market through the end of the forecast period in 2020. Stereolithography printers will also grow at a fast pace according to Gartner.

Education will account a significant portion of that growth, at least for lower-cost units.

"The primary market driver for consumer 3D printers costing under $2,500 is the acquisition of low-cost devices by educational institutions and enterprise engineering, marketing and creative departments," said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "3D printers are being utilized for several applications and subjects by students in secondary and postsecondary schools where the use of 3D printers can prepare students for many career paths, such as engineering, manufacturing, aerospace and robotics."

"The primary enterprise 3D printer market drivers are the part quality, material advances and the devices' ability to make prototypes, tools, fixtures and finished goods," according to a news release. "Prototyping will remain the primary enterprise use for 3D printers throughout the forecast period, while their use to augment manufacturing will grow to 75 percent of enterprises by 2020. By this time, nearly 65 percent of discrete manufacturers that expect to use 3D printers will be using them to produce components of the products they sell or service."

"Aircraft and aerospace manufacturers have been taking this approach for years, using 3D printers to produce low-volume parts and small lots of parts with complex designs," added Basiliere. "Military organizations, whose equipment often has very long lives, are working with defense contractors to evaluate 3D printing of replacement and modified components on shore and at sea."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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