Imbuing increased enthusiasm for 3D printing in the general public has been pinpointed as crucial for the long-term success of the technology in the consumer sphere.
This is according to analysts at Juniper Research, which has published its new report Consumer 3D Printing & Scanning: Service Models, Devices & Opportunities identifying the shortfalls in consumer 3D printing pen to date and what obstacles companies must overcome in order to do well in the years to come. The document uses case studies of 3D Systems, Stratasys, Shapeways, RepRap and Adobe to illustrate its findings.
Sales of consumer 3D printers such as the attractive at-home 3D printing machines on offer at MakerBot and 3D Systems are set to climb to more than one million units by 2018, according to the paper, from just over an estimated 44,000 this year.
Shipments remain at relatively low levels, representing medium-term opportunities and Juniper anticipates orders to rise markedly beyond the five-year period. This is, however, only set to occur on the back of a widening scope of applicability driven by the growth of established vendors – including HP. This in turn will be paired with more competitive pricing for consumers.
Report author Nitin Bhas said: “Educating and motivating the public on the idea of 3D printing, to create everyday objects is critical for the long-term success of this segment. Killer applications and content will be the key drivers – something unique and personalised, which is not available in stores already.”
The report acknowledges that it is still “early days” for consumer 3D printing and the technology has not quite captured the imaginations of the public as yet and that companies are still finding their feet in identifying the best applications with the correct software packages to accompany the technology, as well as materials, to bring to market.
Established industry players are believed, the report states, to be biding their time as to their “killer applications” for the consumer arena, while niche and novelty applications continue to grow in popularity for the short-term. The report highlights 3D printing partnerships with consumer-facing giants such as Hasbro and Hersheys in their development of unique 3D printing offerings.
Nevertheless, a widespread technological awareness among consumers is paving the way for increased public interest in 3D printing, but the report indicated this does not guarantee a rise in shipped products.