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3D printing market set to double

Worldwide shipments of 3D printers (3DPs) will reach 217,350 units in 2015, up from 108,151 in 2014, according to Gartner, Inc.'s latest forecast. 3D printer shipments will more than double every year between 2015 and 2018, by which time worldwide shipments are forecast to reach more than 2.3 million.

"As we noted last year, the 3D printer market is at an inflection point," said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner. "Unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers, which languished in the low single and double digits per year throughout the 30 years since the first 3D printers were invented, are poised to increase dramatically beginning in 2015. As radical as the forecast numbers may seem, bear in mind that even the 2.3 million shipments that we forecast will be sold in 2018 are a small fraction of the total potential market of consumers, businesses and government organizations worldwide."

Looking ahead, plug and print capability will drive consumer 3D printer market growth beginning in 2015. While the ecosystem remains complex, manufacturers of entry-level material extrusion printers are incorporating relatively simple "plug-and-print" capability.

Features such as locked-in materials, often available only in vendor-specific cartridges as with 2D printers, maximize the likelihood the materials will work well. Automated bed leveling and heated build chambers also facilitate simpler set-up and operation, making it easier for the consumer to "hit print" and successfully produce a 3D item. As a result, 10 percent of the 3D printers costing less than $1,000 will have plug-and-print capability by 2016.



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