Dec 2, 2015 | By Alec

There’s a lot of talk about the ongoing 3D printing revolution, and though the signs are good, it is notoriously difficult to measure or even predict. Fortunately, there are specialists who do those sorts of things, and Gartner has just finished a very intriguing study on market expectations of 3D printing technology over the coming years. And the expectations are good: among others, Gartner predicts that 3D printing will be prominently present in both the healthcare and consumer manufacturing industries by as soon as 2019. In fact, they expect that 10 percent of people in the developed world will be wearing 3D printed objects in or on their body in just three to four years from now.

These intriguing results can be found in the latest prediction study by Gartner, called ‘Gartner Predicts 2016: 3D Printing Disrupts Healthcare and Manufacturing’. Gartner, of course, is the world's leading information technology research and market advisory company, and are known for their detailed and often correct interpretations of market mechanisms. The report was developed and studied by Pete Basiliere, Jim Burton, Dale Kutnick, Vi Shaffer and Andrew Stevens.

While the report itself is 19 pages long and pay-per-view, they have kindly shared some of the highlights of what’s to come. In essence, they expect that the slow expansion of 3D printing applications are set to explode over the coming years. Though mostly a prototyping tool for the last twenty years or so, Gartner expects that it is now coming to age as a ready-for-market manufacturing tool as well – specifically for medical accessories, electronics, and even vehicle parts.

Most importantly, they expect that people will start adopting the technology at a high rate. ‘By 2019, 10% of people in the developed world will be living with 3D-printed items that are on or in their bodies,’ they predict. Taking 6 billion people as their measuring point, that would suggest that a massive 600 million people would be using 3D printed objects – a massive and ambitious figure. But in that category, they include a lot of possible parts – from partially 3D printed electronics, to toys, jewelry, cosmetics, but also food and all sorts of medical tools, such as implants and hearing aids. In short, there are a lot of possible avenues through which we can come into contact with 3D printed items.

While here in the west consumer items might play a big role in that, Gartner particularly expects a 3D printing medical revolution. ‘By 2019, 3D printing will be a critical tool in over 35% of surgical procedures requiring prosthetic and implant devices (including synthetic organs) placed inside and around the body,’ they say. We already regularly see 3D printed prosthetics, implants, as well as surgical and dental models, so this is perhaps not so surprising. Though biomedical innovations are still a few years away (perhaps later than 2019), this is indeed looking like a huge growth industry that is benefitting from decreasing costs and increasing flexibility in terms of materials.

What’s more, there is another medical market that is currently often overlooked: drugs and pharmaceuticals. While these are not regularly 3D printed right now, Gartner especially points to the counterfeit drug and pharmaceutical industry as a group that can benefit from 3D printing. ‘As more robust legislation is passed to prevent or minimize the proliferation of counterfeit pharmaceuticals in circulation, counterfeiters will turn to 3D printing as an opportunity for increasing technical sophistication and flexibility,’ they speculate, adding that 10% of all those counterfits in circulation could be 3D printed in a few years from now. However, bona fide manufacturers are also looking into 3D printing, such as Aprecia who invested $25M in 3D printed pharmaceutical production earlier this year, so the medical sector as a whole can be seen looking towards 3D printing.

However, Gartner is equally optimistic about 3D printing in manufacturing, expecting that 10% of all manufacturers will be using 3D printing in some part of their production process. Especially with objects becoming more complex in their design or that are customized for every client, they expect that 3D printing will become increasingly attractive. ‘The shift to employing 3D printing enables manufacturers to profitably manufacture the personalized design that the customer desires and values highly,’ they state.

But 3D printing’s ability to create parts no longer in production will also greatly benefit the automobile industry, Gartner argues, again suggesting that 10% of all out of production parts for vehicles will be 3D printed by 2019. ‘Although new replacement parts are widely available for some classic vehicles, they are long depleted for “orphaned” vehicles, antique vehicles, unpopular vehicles and odd configurations of classic vehicles. Many hobby cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles have remained incomplete for years for lack of a few key parts. The collectible market will result in opportunities for new companies to become involved or for established vehicle manufacturers to get started in the space,’ they speculate. This is also particularly interesting for remote or developing regions of the world, where 3D printing could be a cheaper option that ordering a new part.

In short, the future of 3D printing is very bright, says Gartner, especially in regards to healthcare and parts manufacturing. While some of the figures can be a bit unbelievable, such as 10% of the world population having 3D printed objects in their daily lives, revolutions can be much quicker than you think. And even if these predictions don’t all come precisely true, a lot is set to happen in the world of 3D printing. The full report can be found here:Predicts 2016: 3D Printing Disrupts Healthcare and Manufacturing.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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