At this time of year it’s always fun to gaze into the metaphorical crystal ball and speculate what 2016 might hold for us in the 3D printing business.
What is going to be fresh and exciting? What cool new products are going to be released? What isn’t going to be as big as we first thought?
Although making predictions is always a risky business, here are a trio of 3D printing trends that the team at CEL are expecting over the next 12 months:
Hardware demands will increase as people come to expect more from their 3D printers. As we see more and more amazing 3D models being designed and shared online, and as more interesting materials hit the market, people will expect 3D printers to do more. The best 3D printers will find a way to adapt to these new demands so that they can join in with the next frontier in 3D design and materials without having to entirely replace their existing hardware. Meanwhile, others will release entirely new printer models for 2016 to tempt these early adopters back to their eco-systems.
Nevertheless, the number of new products coming to market will fall for the first time – 2015 was a boom in new printers, but 2016 should see more consolidation around some of the more successful and established printers on the market.
Software will take a big step up this year. At the start of 2015, many 3D printing software packages were still in their infancy, but as we hit 2016 I expect software to become much more powerful. This will allow printers already in people’s homes and workshops to become faster, more accurate, and more useful. At the back end, more efficient slicing engines will speed up the printing process, while for the user experience, software will soon be able to make recommendations by simply looking at a model. Should your model have support material? Should it sit on a raft? How high should you set your fill density, and how might your decision affect your end print? As software develops and becomes smarter, users will be spared some of the more frustrating aspects of 3D printing in 2015.
More materials will hit the market and multi-material printing will start to emerge properly for the first time. Printing solid plastic objects in one colour might soon be the equivalent of using a Motorola Razr – great at the time, but just not that exciting anymore. With so many interesting new materials and filaments now available, 3D designers will start creating amazing designs that make the most of their properties, whether it be flexibility, conductivity or the ability to glow in the dark. Materials will be combined using multi-material printers making 3D creations more amazing and useful than ever before.
Read more from Chris here as he gives his thoughts on the potential for 3D printing in the education sector.