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Looking Forward: 3D up 25% for Next Four Years

3D printing is continuing its rocket rise. Apparently the market is set to increase by a tremendous 25%, (yes, 25%) each and every single year until 2020 (EY’s Global 3D Printing Report). With such an astronomical number, you may be wondering how said source came to espouse these claims, and you would be well warranted, if nonetheless surprised with the survey’s evidence—in short, the survey’s evidence is sound.

The company questioned more than 900 decision makers in 12 different countries and nine separate industries across both established and growing markets. It also analyzed each market’s sales and near-future forecasts. The conclusion? 3D printing will be responsible for $12.1B in the world economy come 2020, and that’s conservative. Other studies suggest that 3D printing will be producing $20B/year by 2020. Of course, those are the more optimistic surveys. Regardless, EY, the more conservative company, noted a number of intriguing facts behind 3D printing’s exponential growth:

Germany is Spearheading the Effort

Some quick facts: 24% of the survey’s respondents currently use 3D printing and 12% are considering it for the near future; but that’s global. In Germany, 37% of respondents have used 3D printing. In America? Only 16% have implemented the groundbreaking technology.

It should be mentioned here that, as can probably be guessed, 3D printing is highly industry specific, for now. Of course, the technology’s implications are nearly limitless and could likely benefit the world over and not be confined to any industry, but that’s the future. For now, it’s mainly the automotive and aerospace sectors of the economy that are dipping their toes. This is because these industries have been able to take advantage of 3D printing’s capacity for rapid prototyping and limited run manufacturing.

In those industries (aerospace and automotive), 20$ have already used 3D printing and impressive 29% intend to use it soon. In fact, many of those who haven’t used it or don’t intend to cite their own lack of skill as the reason why.

We’re Beyond Prototyping

Although the technology’s initial use was primarily confined to prototyping various items and seeing them how they work in the real world, we are now well beyond that. In fact, 5% of companies said they are actually using the technology to create end products, meaning consumer-facing items. Moreover, 38$ of these same companies want to use additive manufacturing on a large scale in the next five years, if they can figure out a way to overcome the perceived cost, anyway

That makes sense. Replacing an entire production line with 3D printing would be expensive, to say the least. That said, as the technology becomes more and more mainstream, it is likely to become cheaper and cheaper too, so this perceived cost may be declining very soon so long as manufacturers continue to search for ways to decrease cost and optimize efficiency.

Consolidation Rests on the Horizon.

As 3D printing gains traction, big players are beginning to take notice, meaning consolidation is a very real possibility. In fact, HP has already been rumored to buy Stratasys, which would quite literally transform the industry overnight. However, this is just speculation, and considering not only how new the industry is, but how fast it’s growing, such speculation is not worth much.

We simply do not know what rests in store for 3D printing, except that it is bound to play a remarkable role the future of manufacturing. We have moved past prototyping, and now looking forward to a future of unpredictable, limitless, spectacular possibility.