The 3D printing industry is on the verge of moving from a curiosity niche to mainstream adoption as businesses begin to recognize and embrace the cost and product manufacturing benefits of the technology, according to a recent report by the International Data Corporation (IDC).

The report predicts the worldwide 3D printer market will experience tremendous unit and revenue growth through 2017, with compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) of 59 percent and 29 percent respectively.

"Print is extending beyond output on media to the creation of an actual object, and that presents incredible opportunity," IDC Vice President Keith Kmetz said. "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 utilized regularly in business applications where substantial cost and time-to-market benefits are gained, according to the report.

In addition to general manufacturing and research and development applications, 3D printing is also finding its place in the 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, the report notes.

For instance, Hewlett Packard 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.

Other printer vendors will look to enter this lucrative opportunity in the near future as well, the report predicts.

IDC is a global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.

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