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Will 3D Printing Ever Become Mainstream?

3D printing reduces pollution, cheapens production, and puts the power to create into the consumer’s hands. All factors considered, it’s a bit strange that more people aren’t using the technology. Will 3D printing ever become mainstream?

3D printing is already mainstream accessible. Experts predict that as consumer awareness and education about 3D printing increases, more consumers will use the technology. Additionally, 3D printing is already mainstream in industrial use.

We’ll first take a look at how accessible 3D printers already are. Then, we’ll look at the roadblocks preventing 3D printing from already becoming mainstream. Finally, we’ll examine how industries already utilize the tech, so let’s get started.

3D Printers Are Already Mainstream Accessible

Even if most consumers don’t yet use the technology, 3D printing is already reasonably accessible should you want to try it. Both 3D printers themselves and 3D printing software are readily available for mainstream consumers.

Let’s talk about why 3D printers are already in the mainstream.

Price of 3D Printers

3D printers are not expensive to those with a vested interest.

Fusion 3, a 3D printer manufacturer, found the average cost of 3D printers to be $400. They note this figure skews heavily towards the breadth of entry-level 3D printers on the market. On average, these cheaper printers range from $200-$500.

Take the Official Creality Ender 3 from Amazon.com. Even a basic model such as this can 3D print and even resume printing through a power outage or lapse. This model is one of many available to first-time buyers of 3D printers.

That’s not to say all consumer 3D printers are cheap. Higher-end consumer models range from $1,500-$6000, while industrial models go for $20,000-$100,000.

Altogether, however, 3D printers are available for mainstream purchase. 

Price of 3D Printing Software

3D Printing software is even cheaper than the printers themselves.

Take Tinkercad, for instance. The free software provides all the basics you need to get started with 3D printing design. That’s right, and the software is free. Premium software, of course, rises in price. 

But if you’re diligent and ready to learn, nothing stops you from diving into 3D printing software yourself.

With the initial price to pay set at around $200, there’s nothing stopping consumers from accessing 3D printing. The problem, then, is less about accessibility and more about knowledge.

The Consumer Knowledge Gap in 3D Printing

Lack of consumer knowledge presents the most significant barrier to 3D printing becoming mainstream.

In their State of the 3D Printing Industry Survey Report, AMFG found that a lack of thorough understanding presents today’s industry’s greatest challenge. This lack of knowledge can boil down into two categories:

  • Lack of consumer awareness
  • Lack of consumer education

Let’s take a closer look at both.

Lack Of Consumer Awareness

Consumers just don’t understand how much 3D printing can do.

AMFG found that customers had vital knowledge gaps about the capabilities and limitations of 3D printing. This lack of knowledge extends from entry-level consumers to massive businesses. Whether personal or corporate, people don’t really know what 3D printing can do.

Consumers also don’t understand how affordable 3D printing can be. While the market has grown substantially, it has left consumers lost on “how much the service does or should cost.” Most consumers still see 3D printing as a futuristic technology of tomorrow. 

In reality, the tech is already at their fingertips.

Lack Of Consumer Education

Even if they did know the benefits of 3D printing, most consumers wouldn’t have the training to use it.

As mentioned earlier, 3D printing software is widely accessible. Yet even larger corporations fail to use 3D printing to its full potential. This lack of efficiency is due to a general lack of structured education.

“…the availability of targeted technical education will lead to a major increase in machine productivity, broader material ranges, improved recyclability, as well as much higher levels of quality,” explains Arno Held, Chief Venture Officer of AM Ventures.

As technical education increases for larger businesses, the effects will trickle down into universities and primary consumers. For now, however, a lack of access to education presents a sizable stopgap for 3D printing’s mainstream growth. 

Is 3D Printing Mainstream in Industries?

Despite a lack of expert knowledge, 3D printing is already a dominant force in industries. From medicine to consumer goods, it seems like 3D printing has leaked into every facet of product design. Is 3D printing mainstream in industries?

3D printing is already mainstream in industries. Corporations use 3D printing to prototype products before putting them into production. Additionally, many businesses have turned to 3D printing for manufacturing at large.

Let’s look at how and why businesses use 3D printing for both prototyping and manufacturing.

Prototyping

Traditional manufacturers use 3D printing to prototype designs.

3D printing doesn’t require the molds traditionally needed to manufacture products. Because of this, 3D printing allows companies to prototype several iterative models of a product before committing to a design.

The flexibility provided by 3D printing thus saves manufacturers the time and money it would take to make separate molds.

It’s this form of 3D printing that dominates the industry today. According to a 2019 Forbes report, 80% of enterprises say 3D printing enables them to innovate faster. 

Since then, the number has only grown. 

Production

While less popular than prototyping, 3D printing production is rapidly becoming the norm.

AMDI predicts 3D printing will eventually become the mainstream technology for serial production due to a continuous decrease in the price of 3D printing technology.

Talking to AMDI, Zachary Murphree of VELO3D mentions how newer metal binder jetting technologies have begun to offer higher-volume part production at a cost-competitive price. Other types of printing are following suit.

Forbes reported that 51% of enterprises are actively using 3D printing in production. Again, that number will only rise in the coming years.

Conclusion

3D printing is on the way to becoming as mainstream as it gets in both consumer and corporate spaces. As low prices lower even further and education rises, expect 3D printing to only become more and more available.