The sudden growth in 3D printing was driven by the expiration of key patents that allowed dozens of small companies to start producing cheap desktop 3D printers for consumers. This fuelled a media frenzy that thrust 3D printing into the limelight decades after its original commercialization. For example, newcomer Makerbot quickly overtook established players 3D Systems and Stratasys in terms of both installed base and proportion of Google searches.
Although the size of the market for consumer 3D printers is relatively small because the printers are so much cheaper, the impact they are having is huge. 3D printing is now a household name.
This report shows that the majority of 3D printing applications are still embryonic in terms of development. The hype around consumer printers is dying out but will soon be replaced with hype around 3D printed critical components in commercial airliners, fully-printed rocket engines, 3D printing in schools and universities, animal-rights-friendly bioprinted human tissues for drug toxicity and cosmetics testing and, ultimately, 3D printed electrics and electronics starting with the replacement of wiring with functional 3D printed enclosures containing embedded conductive pathways.
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