After our 2014 wrap up, we thought we’d put down some crazy ideas for what might happen in 2015.
The world of 3D printing has grown significantly in the past three or four years, more and faster than ever before. There is no reason to expect this to slow in 2015. Aside from the obvious, “things will get bigger, faster, etc.”, we had a few ideas on what may transpire.
More 3D printing market niches will be filled in increasingly focused ways. In 2014 we saw some service begin to specialize. 3D model online stores, for example, began to specialize into themed shops, rather than providing generic models. Similarly, we expect 2015 to be a year of specialization, where entrepreneurs explore the deeper market niches of 3D printing. Recently we saw a company begin to rent 3D printers. What other niches have yet to be found and exploited?
The big corporations will begin to push out low-end manufacturers. In 2014 there seemed to be room for additional small-time 3D printer manufacturers, as we saw dozens of new entrants. We suspect this will begin to slow in 2015, as the big companies are now fully involved. In 2014 we saw machines come from Roland, Dremel and others. It will become increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete against giant companies who can easily subsidize a small 3D printer sideline business. This will likely cause additional smaller manufacturers to expire, much like Mota and Makibox did in 2014.
Increased focus on applications. Manufacturers of both small and large 3D printers will spend significant time developing ways to apply their equipment to specific applications. On the high end, we’ll see Stratasys and others court the aerospace industry. On the low end we’ll see MakerBot and others seek specific uses for their equipment, like gaming, part repairs or artistic works.
An explosion of materials, filament, powder and resin. Thought you saw a lot of new and unusual 3D printing materials in 2014? Wait until 2015 ends. We suspect there are a great many experiments taking place in labs around the world right now, which could lead to an explosion of new 3D printing materials. Expect filaments to be made from a mixture of polymer and <anything>, new metal powder combinations will emerge and resins will enable ceramics and other unusual materials.
Lowered equipment prices? Will 3D printer prices drop? We don’t think so, unless there is a massive uptick in demand that would engage economies of scale. Current personal 3D printers that are a) functionally capable and b) user friendly and c) priced to enable their manufacturer to survive must be sold at USD$1,000 or above. We expect pricing to remain fairly stable, but see improvements in performance, quality and especially ease of use.
The $100 3D printer will finally be released. It’s been a very long wait, but Peachy Printer’s USD$100 3D printer will finally be released to the public - or so we expect. It won’t be as user friendly as some other options, but it will be inexpensive.