Every year Gartner, one of the leading technology analyst firms, produces what they call "The Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies". It's a chart plotting the position of various technologies on the Hype Cycle curve.
The Hype Cycle is a theory proposing that technologies follow a series of stages in their lifecycle: Technology Trigger (the invention and initial use), Peak Of Inflated Expectations (when the hype is vastly outstrips reality), The Trough of Disillusionment (when everyone realizes the hype outstrips reality), The Slope Of Enlightenment (when brave experimenters figure out how to really use the technology) and finally the Plateau of Productivity (when everyone can make good use of the tech).
So, you may ask, "where does 3D printing fall on the chart this year?"
Right at the top. At the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Hype City.
To us, that sounds about right. We constantly see mainstream media reports that "vastly outstrip reality". While the promise of the long term is profound and amazing, it isn't here yet.
Stay tuned for the next phase, which should come up quickly: The Trough of Disillusionment.