Emerging from a curiosity niche, 3D printing is now on the verge of mainstream adoption as businesses begin to recognise and embrace the cost and product manufacturing benefits of the technology.
According to a new research study from IDC, the worldwide 3D printer market will experience tremendous unit and revenue growth from 2012 to 2017, with compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) of 59% and 29%, respectively.
"Print is extending beyond output on media to the creation of an actual object, and that presents incredible opportunity," says Keith Kmetz, Vice President, Imaging, Printing and Document Solutions.
"While traditional print technologies are facing maturity, 3D printers will see worldwide unit shipments grow by 10 times over the forecast period, and worldwide hardware value will more than double in the short term."
The fast-paced evolution of 3D printing has moved well beyond early adopters and hobbyists, and is now being utilised regularly in business applications where substantial cost and time-to-market benefits are gained.
In addition to general manufacturing/R&D applications, 3D print is also finding sweet spots in aerospace, automotive, education, dental, jewelry, medical, and recreation vertical industries.
Traditional printer vendors are increasingly seeing 3D printing as an opportunity, and are getting into the game.
HP is preparing to enter the market in mid-2014, and Konica Minolta is about to sign a U.S. agreement to distribute a leading manufacturer's 3D printers.
According to IDC, other printer vendors will look to enter this lucrative opportunity in the near future as well.