3D Printing – Sorting out Hype vs. Reality

At the 2015 CES show, there was a great deal of excitement particularly over consumer 3D printers available from a number of companies with the hype being a bit suppressed with Stratasys (acquirer of MakerBot) announcing massive layoffs.

2016 was the year of reassessing a bit with companies such as HP making huge investments in their JetFusion technology but with a focus on industrial and manufacturing applications.  HP is very serious about their future in 3D printing, so much so that they appointed Stephen Nigro as President of HP’s 3D printing business.  HP is very focused on industrial/manufacturing applications selling products selling for up to $200K which they are certainly accustomed to with their PageWide web and Indigo cut sheet presses which sell for much more and they have been successful with their digital presses.   HP expects to more than offset the ongoing declines in the office printer hardware and supplies business with new revenue streams from their growing 3D printer business and they are making big investments to make this happen.   Some companies estimate that the 3D printing market in 2016 was about $7B and will growth to $13B by 2018, and to $21B by 2020.

Well, this sound great but there are other industry leaders, such as Autodesk’s CTO, Jeff Kowalski, who believe that there still exists a huge gap between hype and reality in the 3D market.  He also feels that the current generation of products are still not “plug and play” which many users really want.   In his opinion, we need to have significant killer applications to really drive growth in the 3D market and they really don’t exist today.

2016 ended just in time for the Christmas holiday, Toys R Us, UK introduced the DaVinci MiniMaker 3D printer from XYZ Printing and funded by New Kinpo Group, Taiwan, selling for less than $300.  New Kinpo Group, consists of several subsidiaries including Kinpo Electronics, Cal-Comp Electronics, and XYZprinting, offering global electronic manufacturing services (EMS) and original design manufacturing (ODM) services offering its customers lower costs, faster delivery times and world-class product quality.  Although Mattel was expecting to release their comparable ThingMaker 3D printer, the introduction was delayed until the end of 2017.

Photizo’s view

Like in many other industries, you need killer applications to drive market growth.  So it is very likely that initial successes will start at the high end where real benefits in terms of shortening development cycles, can be seen.  As for consumer products, again, killer applications are needed to fuel growth and they still don’t exist today.  Photizo will continue to monitor this exciting market to hopefully help our readers sort out hype from reality.

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