With so much 3D printing info coming out in the media daily and on a nearly hourly basis, we haven't stopped and figured just what the realities of 3D printing's future might be. All the excitement about what it's going to do to change the world have some who think it's the most significant technology in human history. Then you have others who act a little more ambivalent. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, which statistics are starting to show. A new report is out that shows growth in 3D printers reaching every household is still five years away.
While this news might not surprise some people, it's still an unusually long time considering the increase in 3D printers entering the consumer marketplace. But it's boiling down to the reality that 3D printers focus on numerous different technologies requiring different aspects of knowledge or investment. 3D printing going mainstream also falls under what purpose the public wants to apply to the technology.
The Difference Between the Consumer Market and Companies
These new statistics above come from Gartner, a well-known IT research group. They point out there's still a disparity between the home and consumer markets where affordability is the main factor. Yet, with some 3D printers becoming more affordable, it seems they just aren't affordable enough for mainstream families to buy one right away.
As mentioned above, it also comes down to the different pieces of technology 3D printers require. Buying materials to create things requires a separate investment from buying the printer itself. The same goes for software and even specific printer parts. Despite companies like MakerBot creating self-replicating 3D printers to reduce the need to buy parts, it appears mainstream households aren't collectively going to buy a 3D printer until the price goes much lower.
Then again, the home market may be directly inspired by what happens in the commercial market. With many online stores offering 3D printing, the public is seeing the infinite potentials of what can be made. At the same time, there may be a slowdown in 3D printer sales due to the easy accessibility to 3D-printed products online at very affordable prices.
What it comes down to is purpose and whether a 3D printer is really useful to both the commercial and public market. Companies are still waiting to see if investing in a 3D printer would really be feasible in pulling bigger profits. Some consumers are perhaps waiting to see what use a 3D printer would have for them outside of being a plaything.
With all these new statistics in mind, it shows that we can't really predict how fast or slow a technology is going to grow. What we do know, though, is 3D printing will certainly change the world. However, changing the world can't (and shouldn't) happen overnight.