Gartner’s Hype Cycle says widespread consumer 3D printing another 5-10 years away

Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a graphical tool released by the IT research firm annually that measures the maturity, adoption and social application of various emerging technologies. Unsurprisingly, this year’s Hype Cycle features 3D printing pretty prominently and offers what must be considered a pretty realistic and measured appraisal of the technology’s present state and future prospects.

Gartner 3D printing

It places the mainstream adoption of 3D printers for consumer usage at least five, if not ten, years in the future, though it does indicate that the general market is getting bigger all the time. As anybody who checks in regularly here at Top 4 3D Printing will be able to tell you, many of the most exciting usages for the technology are in the medical and business field, and that too is reflected in Gartner’s research. The firm notes that these areas are both moving at a far more rapid pace than the consumer market.

Gartner research 3D printing

Discussing the research, Pete Basilliere Vice President of Gartner, says:

Today, approximately 40 manufacturers sell the 3D printers most commonly used in businesses, and over 200 start-ups worldwide are developing and selling consumer-orientated 3D printers, priced from just a few hundred dollars. However, even this price is too high for mainstream consumers at this time, despite broad awareness of the technology and considerable media interest… (in two –five years) 3D printing of medical devices will offer exciting, life altering benefits that will result in global use of 3D printing technology for prosthetics and implants.

In its most recent report, Gartner identifies two key themes in the current 3D print industry:

First, the enterprise 3D printing market is very different from the consumer market. It’s true that at this early stage there are some similarlities between them as organisations are beginning to employ ‘consumer’ devices in order to learn about 3D printing’s potential benefits with minimal risk and capital investment. Fundamentally, however, the two markets are driven by different uses and requirements and must be evaluated separately.

Second, 3D printing is not one technology but seven different ones. ‘Hype around home use obfuscates the reality that 3D printing involves a complex ecosystem of software, hardware and materials whose use is not as simple to use as ‘hitting print’ on a paper printer,’ said Mr. Basiliere. The seven different technologies each have pros and cons and printers work with varying build sizes and materials. This means organisations must begin with the end products in mind: ‘First, determine the material, performance and quality requirements of the finished items first; second, determine the best 3D printing technology; and third, select the right 3D printer.

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