Out Friends from Deloitte speak about eat 3D printing resurgence and trends going forward.
Like many new technologies, 3D printing was overhyped to an extent in its early days. By 2014, the industry (including but not limited to large public companies) posted revenues of more than US$2 billion, up from less than US$1 billion in 2009 (the year when certain fundamental patents expired, and the first consumer home 3D printer—the RepRap3—was introduced as a result). News articles talked excitedly about “the factory in every home,” and there were predictions that traditional parts manufacturers, warehouses, and logistics companies would all be significantly disrupted in the short term. In reality, at that time, 3D printers were largely being used to make plastic prototypes, and although home 3D printers could be fun and educational, the things that they made were almost never of functional value.
Overhyped, the industry slowed, though it did not collapse. The large public companies in the industry experienced mid-single-digit percentage growth in 2015 and 2016 (although some companies did see year-over-year revenue declines), entering a trough of lowered expectations after the excessive hopes of the previous years. However, it was a shallow trough, and by 2017, growth had accelerated again. Today, we predict that annual industry growth will be well above 10 percent for the next few years at least.
Why the rebound in growth prospects? More 3D-printable materials, for one thing. In 2014, the list of materials that could be used in 3D printing was already long, but still far short of the complete list of materials that are commonly used in parts manufacturing. Plus, many parts need to be made of more than one material, a task to which the 3D printers of the time were not well suited. Fast-forward to the beginning of 2019, and the list of possible 3D-printable materials has expanded to more than double what it was five years earlier, and mixed-material printers are becoming more common.
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