3D Printing the next five years

This is a guest post in 3Dprintingindustry.com’s series looking at the future of 3D Printing. To celebrate their fifth year of reporting on the 3D printing industry, they invited industry leaders and 3D printing experts to give their perspective and predictions for the next five years and insight into trends in additive manufacturing.


Stephan Thomas and Joe Inkenbrandt co-founders of Identify3D.Stephan Thomas is the co-founder of Identify3D. The Identify3D digital supply chain platform provides design protection, quality assurance, and data logistics for digital manufacturing. The California based company recently won the Innovation Award at RAPID 2017.

3D Printing: the next 5 years by Stephan Thomas, co-founder of Identify3D

Predicting the future by looking at the past

So, where were we in 2011? 3D printing was a concept largely confined to R&D departments. According to the Wohlers report, the market was about $1.6 billion and at that time the prediction for the market was to reach $5.7B in 2017 and about $10B in 2021, a 21% CAGR.

Fast forward to 2017 and the market is about $8.8B, 4.5 times larger than 2011 and 54% greater than estimated. There is only one thing certain with 5 year predictions: they will always be wrong, even if directionally correct. If we apply the similar margin of error then the 3D printing market will be a lot bigger than the $26.5B projected for 2021. Or perhaps even greater than $50B.

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Four ways 3D Printing is shaping technology in 2017

If you think printing is just putting ink on paper, the fast-moving train of technology has left you behind. Since the advent of printing, beginning with Johannes Gutenberg inventing the first printing press, printing technology has been growing at an astonishing rate. Recently, it has given birth to the new kid on the block, whom everyone is talking about: 3D printing.

Innovators are testing the waters with this new technology. And this revolutionary manufacturing process, considered impossible just a few years ago, has exceeded our expectations. It produced spectacular results spanning different industries, pushing them in new directions.

Here are four ways 3D printing is shaping technology in 2017.

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Virtual Inventory in the Virtual Warehouse: Will 3D Printing kill the traditional supply chain?

Gordon Styles, the founder and president of Star Rapid, a 3D printing service provider, has been 3D printing since 1993, about which he quips, “It was a huge surprise to me when, in 2011, I found out that 3D printing was just invented.” As Styles implies, 3D printing has only recently become a buzzword, which is sort of oxymoronic.

Star Rapid Factory 4 59010bbbd0670While it is still considered a major disruptive technology, the process was patented in 1984 and commercially available three years later. And while the technology may not be new today, its applicability in supply chain and logistics is going to revolutionize the way we design, manufacture, store and transport products tomorrow.

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Marines take 3D printed drones from the lab to the field

nibblerThe Marines are planning to take their do-it-yourself ethos further and begin prototyping, manufacturing and deploying full-blown 3D printed systems, such as surveillance drones.

The Marines were the first service to 3D print military-grade ammunition and spare parts for weapon systems.

In the coming weeks the service will deploy a tiny unmanned aircraft dubbed the “Nibbler,” which would become the first 3D printed drone used in combat operations by conventional forces. Marines see it as just the beginning of a new way of equipping and supplying forces in the field.

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HP seeks to lower manufacturers’ 3D printing costs

The cost of 3D printing is often cited as a reason why firms aren’t driving to adopt the technology more resolutely.  Perhaps the increased competition of having a big hitter like HP will change the dynamics of the industry.


With its release of a 3D printing materials development kit and the opening of its 3D printing applications lab, HP looks to expand the development and lower the costs of additive manufacturing.

After years of announcements about the potentials for additive manufacturing/3D printing in the discrete manufacturing and process industries, there has recently been a spate of news announcements from end users and technology suppliers that show the rapid progress this technology is making across industry. Now, there’s news from HP—a company more traditionally associated with enterprise and consumer technologies—surrounding what it calls “significant milestones to its open platform for 3D printing materials and production-ready applications development.”

Before detailing the two new announcements from HP, it’s worth noting that, in May 2016, HP released its HP Jet Fusion 3D Printing Solution, a production-ready commercial 3D printing system which HP said could “deliver superior quality physical parts up to 10 times faster and at half the cost of current 3D print systems.” This printing system can reportedly print functional parts at the individual voxel level (a voxel is the 3D equivalent of a 2D pixel in traditional printing).

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Materialise summit expounds on next 3D Printing frontier

For generations Italy’s Nuova SPA produced automotive classics, then focuses on bicycles. Bicicletto is an electric bike designed with the aesthetics of a vintage model. By designing for partial production using 3D printing, Nuova was able to reduce total weight and cut production costs. Image courtesy of Materialise.For 20 years, most discussions around 3D printing have been about its use in prototyping. By contrast, the presentations and discussions at the recent Materialise World Summit in Brussels were about the disruption of all engineering and manufacturing processes, from initial design consideration to final part or product delivery.

Like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, the main stage presenters all described the new processes of additive manufacturing (AM) from their own specific frame of reference. All saw disruption of processes as the central theme of 3D printing for the next few years. (The terms “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” were used interchangeably during the conference). More than 600 attendees listened to 50+ speakers from leading industrial and medical organizations, including Siemens, BASF, GE, Airbus, GKN, HOYA, Atos, SAP, Safilo, Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System, Johnson & Johnson and others. In addition, two panel discussions were organized to allow industry experts to address the future of the technology.

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Industrial 3D printers are growing up

Ultimaker 3Latest advances in additive manufacturing technology are transforming 3D printing from a Star Trek fantasy to a practical manufacturing tool.

The additive manufacturing industry has come a long way. From its 20th-century origins in tiny prototypes, the 3D printing industry has seen rapid advancement in this century boosting build speeds, resolution, and material capabilities.

The result is a new generation of printers that could be finally ready to join the traditional manufacturing tools and machines on the factory floor.

Take a look at the latest printers hitting NED, covering the leading breakthroughs across the full gamut of additive tech.

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Dassault Systèmes’ executives tell us about Design in the Age of Experience

The Scilla concept car is a collaborative effort between the IED, Quattroruote and Pininfarina. Photo by Michael Petch.[April’s] Design in the Age of Experience event at MiCo Congressi in Milan brought together 400 managers, designers and engineers. 3D Printing Industry were in attendance at the conference and expo organized by Dassault Systèmes, and had the opportunity to speak with the CEO and other executives of this leading global software company.

Dassault Systèmes was founded in 1981 to develop the CAD software initially worked on  by parent company, Avions Marcel Dassault. When the first commercial CAD packages began to appear in the early eighties, typical system requirements were a 16-bit computer, with 512 kb memory and 200 Mb storage – the average price was $125,000.

Now with software such as CATIA and SOLIDWORKS, Dassault Systèmes tools are used to design and produce 90% of all cars. Furthermore, every 2.5 seconds somewhere in the world an airplane designed using these tools takes off. At SOLIDWORKS World in 2010, Dassault were the first major company to discuss how cloud-based computing would change the way designers and engineers used software.

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3D printing a Tour De France winner

With 25 years’ working with carbon fibre moulding, founder and CEO of Metron Advanced Equipment, Dimitris Katsanis discusses the advantages of additive manufacturing in the world of competitive cycling.

As a composites and design engineering expert, I have always been a dyed-in-the-wool Carbon Fibre advocate. I’ve been designing and building competitive bicycles for some of the speediest athletes on Earth since the 90s and, until recently, have always relied on carbon fibre for its versatility, lightness and strength. And don’t get me wrong, Olympic and Tour de France champions will attest to its benefits when it comes to producing medal-winning bicycles.

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3DHEALS 2017: 3D printing eliminates communication barriers in Healthcare

3DHEALS, according to the organizers, aims to “[foster] a global collaborative and innovative healthcare 3D printing ecosystem.” In a guest blog post for Print Your Mind 3D, 3DHEALS founder and CEO, Jenny Chen M.D., writes,  “The concept of creating physical objects based on digital data in a layer-by-layer fashion was quickly extended to bio-printing, where the raw material is bio-ink or stem cells. In a way, 3D printing represents an evolved form of human-computer interaction.”

The challenges, advantages, and benefits brought up by the attendees — the need for manual cleanup of digital data and the use of 3D printed models as a communication tool, to name but two — may sound oddly familiar to those in automotive, aerospace, and consumer goods.

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