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Consumer 3D printing 5 to 10 years from mainstream

Staff writer |
Consumer 3D printing adoption will be outpaced by business and medical applications that have more compelling needs in the short term, according to research firm Gartner.

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Consumer 3D printing is around five to 10 years away from mainstream adoption, while business and medical applications will have a big impact within the next two to five years, said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner.

The business 3D printing market is very different from the consumer market, with the two markets driven by different uses and requirements, Basiliere wrote in a research note last week.

"Hype around home use obfuscates the reality that 3D printing involves a complex ecosystem of software, hardware and materials whose use is not as simple as 'hitting print' on a paper printer," said Mr. Basiliere.

3D printing is not one technology but seven different ones, each of which have pros and cons, and printers work with varying build sizes and materials, he explained.

Organizations must begin with the end products in mind, Mr. Basiliere went on.

"First, determine the material, performance and quality requirements of the finished items; second, determine the best 3D printing technology; and third, select the right 3D printer."

At present, about 40 manufacturers sell the 3-D printers most commonly used in business, and over 200 startups worldwide are developing new devices.

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