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3-D Printer Sales to Double Next Year

A still-obscure activity is headed for the mainstream.

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You’ve been hearing about 3-D printing becoming a mainstream activity for a few years now, but how big a deal is it really? Potentially huge, sure, but today the research firm Gartner is out with some new estimates that put some hard numbers on what is clearly still a relatively small business, but growing.

Gartner says shipments of 3-D printers will double next year to more than 217,000 units, up from about 108,000 this year. By 2018 it expects that number to climb to 2.3 million.

That’s some crazy growth, but the market is at what Gartner calls an “inflection point,” with the cost of printers coming down below $1,000, low enough to appeal to consumers. Meanwhile, companies will buy more of them for prototyping and manufacturing.

The report is also timely, as there are two events this week at which 3-D printing will figure prominently. On Wednesday Thursday, the 3-D printing company Stratasys will be holding an event in New York where it will give the latest outlook on the state of its business and will feature customers like New York-based Normal, which makes custom headphones.

The day before that, Hewlett-Packard will hold an event in New York where it will demonstrate Sprout, a computer with a 3-D scanner attached. It’s not much of a leap to assume that 3-D printing products will also figure prominently at that event, though as yet the particulars are only the subject of rumor. Either way, it’s going to be a busy week on the 3-D front.

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