- 3D printers' multi-industry applicability is driving a swift increase in sales and utilization of the technology, according to a recent Gartner report.
- While prototyping will remain the technology's most popular use, the machines' ability to supplement manufacturing is expected to grow exponentially. Other uses include for tools, fixtures and finished goods.
- The Gartner report predicts that worldwide shipments of 3D printers will reach 455,772 units in 2016, twice the 219,168 units shipped in 2015. Though growth will likely slow after its initial burst, Gartner believes the number of shipments forecast over the next four years will reach 6.7 million.
As with many technologies, 3D printing began as a niche tool for prototyping, speeding up the production timeline by allowing companies to nearly-immediately transform designs to life. However, the new report claims the technologies are gaining traction across various industries to produce low-volume, finished goods albeit primarily in the material extrusion sphere.
Manufacturers are taking note: General Electric recently acquired two additive manufacturing companies to reduce supply chain costs. Mainly, the technology allows for decreased reliability on suppliers for complex goods, and in some cases may lead to reduced inventory costs as low-volume goods may be printed rather than stored.
An earlier Gartner report found 65% of supply chain professionals are already or are willing to invest in 3D printing capabilities within the next two years.