3D Prototype Printing is a Technology that can’t be Ignored
3D prototype printing—seeing is believing
3D prototype printing is a process of making a three dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model, all under computer control. 3D prototype printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. The process is so amazing it’s hard to believe your eyes when you see it in action.
3D prototype printing is not a new technology
3D prototype printing is a process that’s been in use for decades. Manufacturers have long used it in the design process to create prototypes for traditional manufacturing. But because the equipment was so expensive, its growth was glacial. Now that the price of 3D prototype printers is going down, more and more companies are jumping at the chance to take advantage of this remarkable technology. With these less expensive printers, companies can create prototypes in far less time and for far fewer dollars than with conventional methods. Because of their versatility, some companies are using 3D prototype printers for short run or custom manufacturing, where the printed objects are not prototypes, but actual end-user products that are ready to ship out to customers.
3D prototype printers are big business
In 2011, 3D prototype printing was only a $1.7 billion market. However, in just over the next few years the market is expected to more than triple. Small wonder when you see just how many industries use the technology:
- Industrial design
- Civil engineering
- Dental and medical
- Geographic information systems
- Food, plus
- Many, many others
3D prototype printing was named by Goldman Sachs as one of eight technologies that’s going to turn how we do business on its head. Goldman isn’t alone in its thinking. Credit Suisse gave a hard, long look at the sector. Some of what it found was put into a comprehensive 180-page report that details how 3D prototype printing will change the world.
3D prototype printing is getting personal, too.
In the same report, Credit Suisse argued that the consumer market is the fastest-growing portion of the 3D printing market, with 100%+ year-over-year growth in 2013. This is very possible: the price of some “consumer” printers, which are marketed to small business owners and serious hobbyists, is below $1000. Amazon has a section of its website for 3D printing equipment and supplies, and Microsoft is also selling the technology in its retail stores.
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