Richard of Capolight Electronics Projects examines the popularity of 3D printing over time and asks the question, "How popular will it be this time next year?"
His investigation involved use of Google Insight, a free service that shows the popularity of terms over time. By searching for typical 3D printing terminology, like "Extruder", "RepRap", etc. he was able to find activity in these words increased between 70-400% over the past year.
One can debate the accuracy of this kind of analysis, but as Richard says, "All up one thing is very clear from all this: Desktop 3D printing is growing at an astonishing rate." We agree, but also point out that there is a very, very long way to go before this is a mainstream technology. MakerBot recently indicated they've sold over 3,000 3D printers in the past two years. Impressive, but still very small numbers.
Will 2011 be the year of 3D printing? We say not quite yet - but we do think 2011 will be much, much bigger than 2010.