Sales of desktop 3D printers are soaring, additive manufacturing now a $5.1B industry

One of the less talked about topics in technology these days is 3D printing, but as Wohlers Associates notes in its latest report on the state of the additive manufacturing industry, it's quite a lucrative business to be in. As a whole, the 3D printing industry grew to an impressive $5.1 billion in 2015, an almost 26% increase compared to 2014.

According to the report, sales of desktop 3D printers were up almost 70% in 2015 when compared to the year before, with over 278,000 3D printers priced below $5000 being shipped to companies and schools. The industry as a whole (sales and services) is expected to grow to $12.8 billion by 2018, and over $21 billion by 2020.

Here you can see the explosion in sales of 3D printers priced below $5000 over the last few years

Terry Wohlers, President of industry research firm Wohlers Associates, explained that the reason behind the boom in sales of 3D printers is their dwindling price, as well as their incredible value for uses such as rapid prototyping.

The research firm speculates that 3D printing is quickly transitioning "from a prototyping to a production future", and that "opportunities for [additive manufacturing] in production applications are orders of magnitude greater than for modeling and prototyping. The money is in manufacturing, not prototyping."

If you want to get a glimpse of the future, take a look at the video above and you'll see a hydraulically-powered robot that was made using a commercial 3D printer. It is the first of its kind, as it was made using a hybrid process that uses both solid and liquid materials at the same time, and doesn't require any assembly.

If you're not impressed by that, it was just a year ago when a Chinese company printed an entire mansion with an industrial 3D printer, and researchers at the University of California are working hard on ways to print human organs out of a patient's fat cells. That being said, there are some security challenges for companies who invest in 3D printing, such as a recent discovery about how easy it is to perform corporate espionage using only a sound recorder.

Source: Wohlers Associates via Computerworld

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