3D printing market set to rocket to $16.2B over next four years

3D printing market set to rocket to $16.2B over next four years

Summary: If you thought 3D printing was a fad, think again. The latest forecast suggests the relatively new market could be worth billions to the economy in the next four years.

TOPICS: Printers
(Image: CNET)

At the rate the 3D printing is expected to grow over the next few years, its market value could be worth as much as $16.2 billion by 2018.

Latest research from Canalys says the overall market, including the 3D printing machines and the total cost of supplies and services, has already reached a $2.5 billion in 2013, and is expected to rise to $3.8 billion this year. 

Canalys senior analyst Tim Shepherd explained that while this is a fast-evolving market, it's "still in its infancy."

"Expect to see new major entrants making a significant impact in the industry in the coming years, including giants such as HP," he said. "As barriers fall, new use cases emerge, the technology improves and new entrants join, this is a market that will look very different in five years' time."

According to the firm, the value of the 3D printer itself grew by 109 percent in 2013 to $711 million, and is expected to slow but retain strong growth to 79 percent this year to hit $1.3 billion.

In the short term, the research firm expects the market to become increasingly open to others as prices come down and the technology is refined.

Global 3D printing market
Estimates and forecast of market value to 2018 

Category 2013 (est.) 2014 (est.) 2018 (est.) Growth ('13-'18)
Total $2.5B $3.8B $16.2B 45.7 percent
3D printers $0.7B $1.3B $5.4B 50.1 percent
Services, materials $1.8B $2.5B $10.8B 43.8 percent
(Image: Canalysis estimates, forecasts)

Topic: Printers

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  • Except for rapid prototyping I just can't see it

    From all I've read, manufacture on a 3D printer entails higher cost and lower quality. And the only time it's faster to make something on a 3D printer is when none of the tooling is in place for standard manufacture, such as when you're prototyping a new product. Sure the industry is excited over something new but when you look past the sparkle the usefulness of 3D printing just isn't there.
    • It depends on what you are printing and the printer itself

      Low resolution printers work just fine - but are useless if you need small high precision results.

      The low resolution can make game pieces, toys, (Lego blocks workalike anyone)...

      But if you need precision then you need a higher resolution and correspondingly more expensive printer.

      Perfect for making low number of units for prototyping, testing...

      And they would be nearly useless for mass production.

      Which is the case for paper printing. Yes you can print a book - in your choice of print sizes....

      But useless if you are going to try to print 1000 copies cheaply.
  • And who paid for the report?

    There's no such thing as an independent report from an independent analyst; if we are to interpret the report, we need the context - the people who commissioned and paid for the report.

    Without that, we have to assume the worst - that's it's financed by some lame 3D printing company, desperate to promote movement in a stagnant market.

    When I see a real USE for 3d printing - not replacing skulls, or other rarities, but a day-to-day mundane but useful usage, then I'll start to believe.

    So far, despite the millions spent on promoting it, 3D printing is a solution looking for a problem.

    There's only so many plastic lids you can make before boredom sets in.
    • One of the greatest advancements of our life time.

      The potential of 3D printing is world changing. As the technology increases and cost drop this will be the go to source for low volume needs and the ability to prototype is un paralleled. This is truly an disruptive technology with almost limitless potential.
  • We'll see.

    "If you thought 3D printing was a fad, think again. The latest forecast . . ."

    I stopped reading there. Kinda tired of everybody trying to crystal ball everything. Nobody really has a good track record of predictions.

    We'll find out, when the time comes.
    • I kind of have to agree with that!

      Its usually some moron telling us how some multi billion dollar company is getting ready to go down the tank, but this time we actually have a positive prediction!

      The problem is, while it looks to me like what we have for 3D printing today is similar to what the VIC 20 was to home computing in 1980, we know there were plenty of better computers around than the VIC 20 back then, its just that nobody could afford them, much, and nobody knew how to use them, much.

      I don't like wild predictions, that I will say for sure.

      The thing here is, if what we are looking at today is simply the VIC 20 of home 3D printing, and history repeats itself in any serious way for 3D printing like it did with the PC, this is not such a silly prediction.

      Its hard to disagree with the thought that there is some serious long term potential here.
  • Produce Upon Demand

    This may be my first post at this website, but I've debated this subject many times before. As Engineering Students , we worked out the details of a handy innovation. We have prototyped a Handlebar Basket for a Bicycle , throwing aside all previous materials used in the construction of bicycle baskets, including wicker, and galvanized steel… WE can make a bicycle basket out of Plastic! Welcome to the 21st Century! (or at least 1960, LOL.)
    We intend to make this product resemble a Motorcycle Windshield , or Fairing, and follow the same Design Parameters and ISO Standards used by the Motorcycle Industry. LED headlights and LED amber marker lights will be an option, I suppose.
    The 3D printer will be important. We have built a dozen Fiberglass Prototypes, but our (limited) Market Research shows insufficient demand , to make it worth making Injection Molds.
    Hypothetical Example: We set up Injection Molding plant in say, Pennsylvania USA, advertise, and receive 5 purchase orders, 2 from California, 2 from Germany, and one from Australia… It costs $100,000 to set up, barely $500 comes in , we would get really soaked. Ahem . The 3D printer will make it a helluva lot more feasible to design , promote and distribute the product.
    I am waiting with baited breath.
    • Who says injection molds are the way to go

      Vacuum forming is easy, relatively inexpensive, and is suited for production runs of all sizes, as setup cost beyond initial molding (which can be done out of many materials) is minimal.
      • He said "resemble" not BE a windshield.

        A true windshield for a bicycle is nearly useless - a gentle side wind would through the rider off the road... or into traffic.

        Reread what he wrote, though you might be unfamiliar with the characteristics of bicycle riding...
      • Size and rigidity requirements

        I am familiar with Velomobiles, and the vacuum forming process is only used in the transparent plexiglass "windshield" . I'm sorry if I mixed up the words "windshield" and "fairing". Fairings are not necessarily transparent. Most Velomobiles are recumbent Tricycles, and what I am working on is an Accessory Handlebar Basket, for a typical mountain bike, touring bike, or hybrid. Most cyclists may use Nylon Bag type Panniers , but this product would have amber marker lights or directional signals, two headlights (hi beam & lo beam) , and a rear-view mirror. It would be difficult to aim and align these other gadgets, if they were mounted on a floppy nylon bag!
        There are other Velomobiles on the market, and one manufacturer in Australia has started making the Fairings by Rotational Molding, which is used in newer model Kayaks. The amount of time required to work in Carbon Epoxy or Kevlar Epoxy puts the cost of a new Velomobile in the +$6,000 range. Roto-Molding brings the cost down by using cheaper material and saving 80 to 100+ man-hours.
        I have a pilots license, so I know how to handle cross-winds, even if it looks like I'm flying sideways!
        But no, I'm afraid vacuum forming would result in a product too susceptible to cracking.
        I have used Kevlar Epoxy in previous prototypes (too expensive and time consuming) and currently use Coroplast (which is too boxy looking).
        The two touring prototypes currently in use have a ten-inch cube, and a twelve inch cube respectively. Most of the 3D printers , AFAIK, have a maximum capacity of only a seven inch cube. But I am watching the developments in the field.
  • Just need a little vision

    Yes it can get tedious to hear market predictions --- and this one is certainly getting a lot of hype. But you have to admit that when:

    a) Kids are going to programs at a library to learn how to design something on a CAD program and then see parts for it produced in a 3D printer while they watch.

    b) Robotics clubs (like FRC, not some tiny radio shack thing) are using 3D printers actively as they build and field their robots in competition.

    c) Medical procedures are being applied (like the recent skull replacement) where a one-off tailored item can be more easily produced with high impact.

    d) Cell phone cover makers now provide 3D printed options where you can get something tailored to exactly your specs or interest --- it's okay that it's a one off.

    ... That something new and innovative is going on. That's just a tiny list of applications I remember off the top of my head from recent experiences. The one that caught me off guard was my sons robotics club using a 3D printer that somebody on the team had to print parts for their competition robot, worked well for them.

    I don't do anything in the 3D industry myself, so I'm just an outsider looking in at how this stuff is being applied. I am a long-timer in the software tech industry, so I've seen lots of innovative applications of technology. It's easy to be jaded by new tech hype but this one does feel like a 'mobile phone moment' where one year we're ordering things online and 5 years later stuff is popping out of 3D printers at the mall. I guess we will see.