The 3D printing industry's rise and rise shows little sign of grinding to a halt according to one market-defining publication.
The Wohlers Report, which is closely watched by the additive manufacturing sector, indicates the entire 3D printing technology ecosystem has experienced growth of more than one-third (34.9 per cent) over the past 12 months.
Not only is this the biggest gain ever recorded by the Wohlers Report, but it eases fears the so-called 3D printing hype bubble has burst - a theory that has caused some disruption for publically-listed companied with consumer-focused 3D printing operations in recent months.
The Wohlers' report is backed up by more than a quarter of a century's expertise in analysing this niche in technology and manufacturing. This year's report states: "The market for 3D printing, consisting of all products and services worldwide, grew to $3.07 billion (£1.81 billion, €2.2 billion) last year. Compared with an average 27 per cent growth rate over the past 26 years, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34.9 per cent is the highest in 17 years. The CAGR for the past three years (2011–2013) was 32.3 per cent."
Far from the bubble bursting, Wohlers Associates believes 3D printing will continue to thrive in the coming years thanks to the growing availability of sub-$5,000 prosumer 3D printers, while industrial manufacturers increase their adoption of the technology for the production of end-use parts and prototypes.
Wohlers' figures chime with other 3D printing reports released in recent months, such as the 3D Printing 2013-2025: Technologies, Markets, Players report published by Research and Markets. This document indicates the industry will be worth $4 billion in the next decade citing emerging applications including dental and medical as major drivers. Transparency Market Research published its own medical-focused 3D printing research piece earlier this year, while RnRMarketResearch.com's 3D Printing Materials Market report suggested the market for 3D printing materials is expanding at a rate of CAGR 19.9 per cent as industrial and prosumer demand increases.
Just five years ago, the Wohlers Report published negative annual growth for what was then a fledgling industry. With -9.7 per cent growth in 2009, at the height of the global economic crisis, the industry has come a long way, while investment opportunities within 3D printing continue to arise with a growing number of 3D printing companies going public.
As well as consumer 3D printing hardware such as the MakerBot Replicator or the Cube by 3D Systems, there is a growing understanding of the professional-quality 3D printing service offered by service bureaux such as Shapeways, who have cornered a key part of the marketplace and enable more people to access 3D printing technology without the technical skills required.
Senior author of the Wohlers Report Tim Caffrey stated: "The industry is experiencing change that we have not seen in [more than] 20 years of tracking it. What's most exciting is that we have barely scratched the surface of what's possible."