3D Printing Is A Revolution: Just Not The Revolution You Think

Author:Deloitte Technology, Media & Telecommunications Industry Group

Nearly 220,000 3D printers will be sold worldwide in 2015 Enterprise will account for 95% of all 3D printed objects by volume 3D printers may become increasingly prevalent in schools to equip the future workforce Deloitte predicts that in 2015 nearly 220,000 3D printers will be sold worldwide, with a value of just over £1 billion. But we won't end up with a factory in every home, at least not this year.

The real 3D printing revolution is for enterprise, not for consumers. Deloitte estimates that the 3D printer enterprise market will account for just under 90% of the value of all 3D printers; over 95% of all printed objects by volume; and 99% by economic value.

Deloitte also predicts that rapid prototyping and the production of 3D-printed objects that fit into existing manufacturing processes (such as creating a mould, die, cast or tooling that will be used to make final parts) will represent 90% of the 3D objects made by enterprises. Final-part manufacturing, while likely to be the fastest-growing component of 3D printing, will represent less than 10% of 3D objects printed. High-end industrial machines are capable of producing finer details, print faster and can create larger objects.

On the other hand, consumer 3D printers have more challenges. The relative insignificance of the consumer 3D printing market is due to several factors. One is price. Home devices for under £650 have been available for eight years and use limited-performance materials costing about £30 per kilo or more. They are slow (even objects a few centimetres high can take several hours to print). The software tools are not easy to learn and the resulting objects tend to be small and fragile. Furthermore, the less-expensive home devices can be extremely difficult to calibrate, maintain and use.

Where will the biggest impact be?

Although 3D printers...

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