Feeds

Gartner forecasts pro 3D printer prices below $2,000 by 2016

Roving printing vans predicted for every shopping mall

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Analyst house Gartner has caught the 3D printing bug with its latest forecast on the future of the industry, and predicts enterprise-quality printers being cheap and plentiful by 2016.

"3D printing is a technology accelerating to mainstream adoption," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner. "The hype leads many people to think the technology is some years away when it is available now and is affordable to most enterprises."

A glance through our recent 3D printer roundup shows you get a functioning system for around $2,000, or even less. By 2016, however, Gartner predicts the price of high-end printers that currently cost tens of thousands of dollars will have fallen to the same price point. The effect on usage could be similar to that of the PC after Phoenix opened up the IBM-clone market and made that platform affordable.

At that price point it makes financial sense for some companies to get their own 3D printer for making custom products such as jewelry or machine parts, Gartner forecasts, and the market will be helped by improvements in 3D scanning systems and modeling tools.

But $2,000 is still a lot of money for the average consumer in these cash-strapped times, so Gartner suggests that 3D printing's first flush will come as a bureau service – for which plans are already afoot. The normally staid analysts even take a flier on the idea of vans packed with 3D printers that can be deployed in shopping malls across the land.

"Customers would visit these self-contained vans parked in front of the store that contain two or three operating printers and watch parts being made (including possibly their own personalized 3D item). Alternatively, the consumer could order the custom or personalized part to be made while they are shopping, or to be available for pickup the next day," suggests Gartner's report.

Quite how accurate this is remains to be seen, but the suggestion did remind this hack of similar predictions for the fax machine back in the 1960s when Xerox patented and sold the first commercial systems.

Back then there were suggestions that there'd be fax machine shops in every city, with the documents themselves being delivered by messenger boys, as telegrams had been. But the increasing sophistication and rapidly falling price of fax machines killed this idea as businesses started buying in.

3D printing has a long way to go, particularly in terms of the materials you can and can't print – not to mention if you're legally allowed to go so, as in the case of firearms. But major patent trolls are also moving into the area (a good indicator of success these days), prices are falling, and the printer's sophistication is getting a lot better.

So if 3D printing is as useful as some of its advocates claim, don't start investing in a 3D printmobile just yet ("Print My Ride" perhaps), you might be outpaced by the technology. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
PEAK APPLE: iOS 8 is least popular Cupertino mobile OS in all of HUMAN HISTORY
'Nerd release' finally staggers past 50 per cent adoption
Tim Cook: The classic iPod HAD TO DIE, and this is WHY
Apple, er, couldn’t get parts for HDD models
Apple spent just ONE DOLLAR beefing up the latest iPad Air 2
New iPads look a lot like the old one. There's a reason for that
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Microsoft fitness bands slapped on wrists: All YOUR HEALTH DATA are BELONG TO US
Wearable will deliver 'actionable insights for healthier living'
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring
Back to driving's basics with a joyously legal high
Back to the ... drawing board: 'Hoverboard' will disappoint Marty McFly wannabes
Buzzing board (and some future apps) leave a lot to be desired
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.