Wall Street is starting to wake up to the potential of 3D printing. This morning Citi analyst Kenneth Wong released a bullish note projecting that the market for 3D printing and related services will triple by 2018, citing the leading companies in this area, Stratasys and 3D Systems. (Granted, such rapid growth is possible partly because the industry is still tiny, just $1.7 billion in 2011, with the market for 3D printed parts accounting for about half of that.)
Wong attributes future growth to such mouthfuls as "broader adoption across more upstream production applications and the consumer end market," and "increased utilization of existing systems as customers start to extend use case beyond small batch digital manufacturing," but here's what that means in plain English.
3D printing will explode in 2014, thanks to the expiration of key patents. Soon, you won't have to master the (challenging, time-consuming) task of learning how to model things in 3D, because you'll just be copying them from the real world usingcheap, effective 3D scanners. This technology will also enable 3D faxing (should anybody want it) and the democratization of fine art.