Gartner, a IT research company, estimates that by 2016 3D printers with enterprise level features will cost less than $2,000, less than the price of a high-end PC. With the rapid advance of the technology they believe that advanced features that are currently present only on the most expensive enterprise level machines will be available on prosumer printers sooner than people think.
Gartner research director Pete Basiliere explains in a Gartner press release that the material science behind 3D printing technology will progress and the cost of entry into this new tech sector will become more affordable.
“From descriptions of exciting current uses in medical, manufacturing and other industries to futuristic ideas — such as using 3D printers on asteroids and the moon to create parts for spacecraft and lunar bases — the hype leads many people to think the technology is some years away when it is available now and is affordable to most enterprises,”, Basiliere said in a Gartner press release.
The report explains how 3D printers are now already at a price point where most business can invest in one and start to experiment how they can benefit their business. Early-adopters will have an advantage over their competition with minimal outlay, both in capital and time. Gartner compares the potential of 3D printing to that of ecommerce, in that it will change how consumers get their goods and how business transactions are conducted.
3D printing will continue to expand into new industries and applications into architectural, engineering, medical uses and well as short-run manufacturing. The technology is also predicted to radically change how consumers buy their goods, and how the supply chain from manufacturers to the retailers will evolve.
Retailers will not only sell the printer hardware and consumables, but also offer a print service that produces custom items or personalized variations on stock items.