Personal 3D Printers
additive manufacturing (AM) industry is experiencing staggering growth
in low-cost “personal” 3D printers. These are products that typically
sell for about $1,000 to $2,000 and are available as a kit or assembled
machine. The majority originated from the RepRap open-source machine
development at Bath University in the UK. RepRap is based on fused
deposition modeling (FDM) technology developed and commercialized by
Stratasys in the early 1990s.
additive manufacturing systems are those that are established in
industry and sell for more than $5,000. Sales of these systems grew by
an estimated 5.4% (CAGR) to 6,494 units in 2011, excluding personal
systems. This compares to an estimated 6,164 systems sold in 2010 (also
excluding personal systems), which resulted in impressive growth of
Personal 3D printer unit sales grew 289% in 2011, with an astonishing 23,265 units believed to have been placed, as shown at http://wohlersassociates.com/p3dp.html.
However, personal 3D printers represent just $26.1 million of the total
market for AM systems sales in 2011. If the personal systems category
continues to grow at its current pace, it will quickly become an
interesting market segment for system developers and investors.
The previous information was taken from Wohlers Report 2012, a 287-page
global study focusing on the advances in additive manufacturing and 3D
printing worldwide. A detailed overview of the report, as well as
additional information on the market and industry, are available at
Wohlers Talk: Why Most Adults Will Never Use a 3D Printer
have speculated on whether everyday consumers will purchase and use a
3D printer. With prices dipping to $350 for a kit and $550 for an
assembled system, they are certainly affordable. Some believe that a 3D
printer will someday be in every home and used to produce replacement
parts as household products break or wear out.
As shown by
Shapeways, Materialise, FutureFactories, Ponoko, and others, consumers
are definitely interested in products made by additive manufacturing
and 3D printing. Shapeways claims to be producing more than 90,000
parts (about 25,000 products) per month by AM, with a high percentage
going to consumers. For years, Materialise’s .MGX division has offered
striking lighting designs, sculptures, and other products, with
consumers paying hundreds of euros for one of them.
consumers have an appetite for products made by additive manufacturing.
However, most consumers will never own or operate a machine to produce
these products. Instead, they will go to Shapeways, Amazon, or to
another service or storefront to purchase these products. Most will not
know, or even care, how the products were made—no different from the
way they now purchase products. Consumers only care about receiving
Someday, a company will offer a very low-cost,
easy-to-use, and safe 3D printer targeted at children. This market
opportunity, I believe, is very big because children like to imagine,
create, touch things, play, and entertain themselves. These kids will
be producing vehicles, action figures, puzzles, and just about
everything imaginable. They are our future designers, engineers, and
Most parents and adults are not
candidates for a 3D printer. They do not want to mess with the data,
manufacturing process, clean-up, and finishing of parts and products.
Even if they owned or had access to a machine, it would probably not be
capable of producing parts in the right material with the mechanical
properties, color, surface finish, and texture needed for the part(s)
they are trying to create or replace. These types of parts will
continue to be produced by industry professionals and that’s why most
adults will never use a 3D printer.
Wohlers Talk is a blog that offers views, perspective, and commentary
on rapid product development and a wide range of other topics. Nearly
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Plastics News Additive Manufacturing Seminar
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manufacturing to assist with rapid product development and the manufacture of
parts that go into final products. Tim Caffrey, associate consultant at Wohlers
Associates, is one of four featured speakers. Go to http://www.plasticsnews.com/am2012
to learn more about the program and register.
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