Prototyping will remain the cornerstone of the 3D printing industry in the next 2–5 years

By Dr. Conor MacCormack, co-founder & CEO, Mcor


Republished from 3D Printing Industry (3DPI)


The importance of prototyping to the product development cycle cannot be overstated, and 3D printing presents an invaluable tool for speeding the time to market. It may not be the sexiest application out there, but it will remain the foundational cornerstone of the additive manufacturing industry in the next 2–5 years.


There will be continued improvements in printers focused on prototyping. The quality and capability of these printers will step up their offering in terms of speed, material, reliability and color capability. This may lead to a potential convergence of technologies, which would offer a ‘one stop shop’ solution.


According to Wohlers Report, a worldwide review and analysis of 3D printing, the manufacturing market is currently worth a whopping $10.5 trillion and the 3D printing market is worth a fraction of this at $5 billion. Even if 3D printing grows to just 2% of the manufacturing market it could be worth a substantial $210 billion! Wohlers predicts the 3D printing market will grow to $20 billion by 2020 but what part of the 3D market will dominate? Production will grow to $7.4 billion and the consumer market to $0.4 billion. But growing at a CAGR of 29% and to the value of $12 billion, prototyping will continue to present opportunities for those companies that continue to improve their offerings.


I think we belong to an ever-evolving industry that changes its mind quickly about what it wants to be. We have seen the rise and fall of the consumer 3D printing market – a 3D printer in the home was the holy grail and if it did not fit on a desktop it was not relevant. But now we have seen the tide turn in the complete opposite direction and there is now almost a snobbery attached to 3D printing – unless you are printing a part of a jet engine then it’s really not worthy! And now it is all about production and end use parts. But in many ways I think the industry has swung in two opposite directions and completely overlooked the size and potential of the prototyping market.


No doubt that 3D printing will revolutionize our supply chain, manufacturing processes and more but we should be focusing on how it is revolutionizing design processes and functional prototyping right now. If we focus on use in prototyping, then we will grow use in manufacturing applications. This is an exciting time for this industry but we need to maximize its potential every step of the way.