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Monday, February 10, 2014
Home 3D Printers Could Drive Significant Market Revenues

Home 3D printers could eventually become an important segment in the consumer electronics market, generating an annual $70bn worldwide, according to Strategy Analytics.

The research firm estimates that the industry will develop more slowly than some vendors expect in the early years despite the obstacles, that demand will accelerate post-2020 as more use cases emerge, user experience improves and technologies advance. Under the report's core forecast scenario, 3D printers would eventually be owned by more than 50 percent of households in both the US and Western Europe, and global annual revenues from sales of printers and related materials would reach $10bn by 2024 and $70bn by 2030.

"In spite of widespread publicity around 3D printing over the past year or so, 3D printers designed for home use are only at the beginning of their long journey towards widespread consumer adoption," says David Mercer, Principal Analyst and the report's author. "The industry must overcome a number of barriers if the long-term potential of 3D printing as a consumer market is to be realised."

Amongst these barriers the report identifies two key factors: user experience and copyright issues. In spite of recent improvements the report suggests that most desktop 3D printers are still too complicated, slow and limited in applications to become mass market devices. These user experience issues are likely to be resolved over time as technologies improve but this will require vendors to devote resources to understanding the needs and attitudes of end users.

Copyright issues are also likely to emerge when rights holders realise their products can be copied by home users. The future availability of personal 3D scanners combined with home 3D printers means that some commercial items could eventually be replicated to a quality close to the original.

"In the long term home 3D printers offer great potential for new business models in industry and retail," Mercer comments. "But 3D printing technology vendors and service providers must recognise and overcome the specific barriers to consumer market adoption as they develop products designed for the mass market."

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