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3D Printing: Expanding Your Reach

(August 2017) posted on Wed Aug 09, 2017

Why today’s print service providers should consider breaking into the 3D printing market.

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By Tim Greene

3D printing is currently in a very interesting phase. Some of the industry leaders, the companies that have made the market what it is today, are being challenged by new players, and distributors are trying to figure out what key technologies they should stake. The types of companies buying the systems are changing as well, making it important for traditional PSPs to understand the new service providers that are emerging to offer 3D printing services.

Hardware Forecast
While the 3D printing market has existed for 30-plus years, it has almost all been in prototyping. Now, though, many developments indicate that 3D printing is at the threshold of wider adoption and utilization in production and manufacturing environments. One of these is the emergence of production configurations that “gang up” multiple 3D printers to increase capacity and automate some of the pre- and post-processing requirements. To date, 3D Systems, Stratasys, Formlabs, and Carbon have all introduced or announced some type of production configuration based on existing 3D printer models. This is an important point because customers (those who buy the 3D builds) have a set of expectations around materials, quality, rigidity, and other performance metrics and they’ve become accustomed to the current technology. This dynamic, which is designed to address one of the biggest obstacles to growth in 3D printing – speed – is expected to expand the installed base. Companies will adopt multiple devices, adding capacity instead of replacing one device with another. IDC expects the hardware market for 3D printers in the US to grow at a 14-percent CAGR from 2016 to 2021, from almost 100,000 in 2016 to over 190,000 printers sold annually by 2021.