In 2011 the additive manufacturing (3D printer) industry had a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 30 percent and it is projected to continue strong double-digit growth over the next several years into a $3.7 billion market by 2015 and $6.5 billion in 2019, according to Wohlers Associates, a consulting and research firm specializing in the space for more than two decades. Lest we think Terry Wohlers, the company’s principal, is being a homer with the numbers, it’s worth noting that several other research organizations also project the market to grow in the double digits and reach several billions in value over the next few years.
What is less clear is how big of a role the consumer market will play in said growth. Additive manufacturing has been utilized in commercial and industrial applications for many years. In fact, the process has been rebranded “3D printing” for the consumer market. (Can you imagine an aisle at OfficeMax called Additive Manufacturing?)
To date only a modest number of consumer 3D printers (machines or kits priced under $4,000) have been purchased. Clinton Freeman at www.reprage.com recently crunched some numbers to arrive at somewhere between 32,000 to 70,000 units sold, concluding that it’s not exactly the third industrial revolution described by The Economist, but it’s a strong start.
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