Enterprises will adopt and use 3D printers and associated technologies faster than the consumer market, due to the benefits and the costs involved, according to analyst house Gartner.
In a report the firm said enterprise use of 3D printing will rise in the next two to five years. But consumer adoption of similar technologies is at least five years away, according to Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner and author of the report.
Basiliere noted that while there are consumer-orientated 3D printing firms selling devices, prices are still too high for all but the most committed hobbyists.
"Today, approximately 40 manufacturers sell the 3D printers most commonly used in businesses, and over 200 startups worldwide are developing and selling consumer-oriented 3D printers, priced from just a few hundred dollars,” he said.
“However, even this price is too high for mainstream consumers at this time, despite broad awareness of the technology and considerable media interest.”
For businesses, though, the rise of these consumer 3D printers has proved a good way to test the water with 3D printing. Capabilities such as easier 3D prototyping of objects and parts will be driven by such devices in businesses, Basiliere said.
"3D prototyping enables organisations to reduce or mitigate the risks associated with the design, form and functionality of products in research and development programs," he said. “It may also be used to support new manufacturing processes, and can reduce new product development schedules.”
Gartner also produced a ‘hype cycle’ chart to show the various stages of different 3D printing capabilities and their market impact, plotting most business uses of the technology as entering the ‘slope of enlightenment’.
Consumer uses of the technology are mostly on the rising ‘innovation trigger’ curve or just leaving the ‘peak of inflated expectations’.
This would mean the buzz around 3D printing in the consumer space will enter the ‘trough of disillusionment’, but this ultimately leads to the ‘slope of enlightenment’. It is this journey that Gartner estimates will take around around five years.
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