Hype in 3D Printing? Absolutely… but some maturity, too

The 3D Printing “hype” hit full steam over the last few years. (BTW – I’m intentionally avoiding the word, “craze.” )

While 3D printing for prototyping has been around for a few decades, main stream media really started to cover it after the technology price point became affordable enough to support the “maker” movement.

Below is a graph showing the explosion in news headlines. ( I plugged in a few 3DP-related search terms on Google.)

Whenever a massive media ramp-up occurs, much of the sensationalised tabloid style “hype” obscures the true value.

While 3DP technologies have been disruptive in some pockets of manufacturing, 3DP will not save (or end) the world as we know it, anytime soon.

The technology is still evolving. It will take time for the new models to take shape (pun intended). The non-maker communities are still learning how the technology can be applied and monetised.

In the short term, we need to put all our fears and fantasies in check: In 2015, teenagers will not create anarchy in the classrooms with 3D printing guns designed on their iPads.

Those that obsess about immortality will not order 3D bioprinted limbs and have them delivered via drone. Your neighbor will not 3D-print an Aston Martin DB5 and drive it to Monte Carlo to play baccarat.

However, we will continue to see 3DP propel “the new possible.” The emergence of 3DP in retail and consumer industries will enable the first waves of “personalised” products.

We’ll see more medical devices using 3DP technologies to provide better form, fit and function. Automotive, aerospace, and defence leaders have already welcomed 3DP into sophisticated design engineering and production facilities.

At Gartner, a number of analysts have scrutinized over the old and new 3DP technologies, and put them into ”Hype Cycle for 3D Printing, 2014“.

This research exposes how mature the numerous individual 3DP technologies are and when they will reach a plateau.

This document is designed for those leaders, thinkers, and tinkers that might have business challenges that could be solved by 3DP investments.

By Michael Shanler – Analyst, Gartner

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