The 3D printing industry, which took its first breath in 1986 with the invention of stereolithography by Chuck Hull, achieved $3.07 billion in revenues last year, according to the Wohlers Report 2014. Even more impressive, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) was 34.9 percent, the highest in 17 years.
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, plays an increasingly important role in
niche manufacturing applications, protoypying, hobbyist-type projects, and specialty areas such as dental implants and architectural renderings. Its strength is its ability to add extreme detail, even internal detail, not possible with conventional manufacturing approaches. Cost of materials and slow construction speeds have kept the technology from achieving the status predicted by its Wall Street hypsters.
Wohlers Associates believes the industry will continue strong growth over the next several years, fueled by sales of under $5,000 “personal” 3D printers, as well as the expanded use of the technology for the production of parts, especially metal, that go into final products. “The industry is experiencing change that we have not seen in 20+ years of tracking it,” said Tim Caffrey, senior consultant at the company and one of two principal authors of the new report.