According to a forecast by Terry Wohlers, Wholers Associates, the sale of 3D printing machines will increase through 2020. Noted Wholers, “The increased sale of these machines over the past few years has taken additive manufacturing (AM) mainstream more than any other single development. 3D printers have helped spread the technology and made it more accessible to students, researchers, do-it-yourself enthusiasts, hobbyists, inventors, and entrepreneurs.”
The industry should continue its double-digit growth over the next several years. By 2016, Wohlers Associates reports that the sale of AM products and services will reach $3.1 billion worldwide. By 2020, the industry is expected to hit $5.2 billion. (The numbers in the vertical axis are in millions of dollars.)
This technology is encouraging designers to consider new approaches to product development and an examination of traditional methods used to design for manufacture. AM/3D printing can make almost any shape or geometric feature.
Many online discussions consider the capabilities and potential capabilities of these machines, but the future development with the greatest impact may be one that is impossible to anticipate. Said Wholers, “Terms such as “outlier” and “paradigm change” describe this phenomenon, an event or development from beyond our narrow vision that is difficult to predict and changes everything. In the context of the AM industry, this could be a new material, a new application, or an industry certification. Or it could be a development outside the industry, such as a web interface for product co-creation, global security or trade issue, or an energy or climate crisis, to speculate on a few possibilities.”