Technology research firm Gartner has forecasted what it calls a tipping point in the growth of 3D printing in its first report on 3D printers priced under $US 100,000.
According to Gartner’s research, $US 412 million will be spent for 2013 by end users of the technology, made up of 325 million by enterprises and 87 million by consumers.
Shipments will increase by 75 per cent in 2014, then nearly double in 2015, according to the figures, and by that time – highlighting the mainstreaming of additive manufacturing – seven out of 50 of the biggest retailers are tipped to offer machines for online and retail sale.
"While still a nascent market, with hype outpacing the technical realities, the speed of development and rise in buyer interest are pressing hardware, software and service providers to offer easier-to-use tools and materials that produce consistently high-quality results," said Pete Basiliere, a research director at the company.
"As the products rapidly mature, organizations will increasingly exploit 3D printing's potential in their laboratory, product development and manufacturing operations," he said.
"In the next 18 months, we foresee consumers moving from being curious about the technology to finding reasons to justify purchases as price points, applications and functionality become more attractive."
The predictions have been questioned by some reporters, with TechCrunch agreeing that growth in interest in 3D printing would be strong, but calling the figures “ridiculous”.
Betabeat said the predictions of 56,507 units being sold this year and 98,065 in 2014 were “weirdly precise”, but agreed that mainstream interest was on the way up.