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Review of 3DPrint.com’s 2014 3D Printing Predictions & How We Fared

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In late January of this year, 3DPrint.com officially launched. Since that time the industry has changed quite a bit, slowly inching its way into the mainstream. In May, I decided to try my luck at making a handful of predictions for the remainder of this year, with the help of the few staff members we had at the time. Here we are, closing out 2014, and a lot has changed in the last seven months. I thought I’d see how my predictions have fared. Below you will find in bold my predictions from May, along with a grade of that prediction (It may be biased as I graded myself):

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Consumer Based 3D Metal Printing and Desktop SLS Printers Begins to Take Off Grade: A
I can gleefully state that this prediction of mine was incredibly accurate. I predicted that we would begin seeing evidence of metal 3D printers as well as SLS machines coming to market which were sub-$5,000 and initiated via crowdfunding p4sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Since that time we have actually seen several metal and SLS machines launch on crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter. As I predicted, the bulk of these machines have come from smaller companies, and really begin to take off in 2015.  As examples we have seen the Ester 3D Printer launch on Indiegogo last month for just $2,500, and MatterFab reveal that they are working on an affordable metal printer back in July.

Major 3D Printing Acquisition by Mainstream Tech CompanyGrade: D
Although there have been several decent-sized acquisitions within the 3D printing space, they have primarily been from companies already involved in the industry. The major players themselves like 3D Systems, Stratasys, and ExOne were both the acquirers and the ones getting acquired, and unlike my thoughts back in May, Google, Apple, IBM, Intel, and Microsoft did not enter the space via an acquisition. I’ll give myself a “D” grade only because there were still dozens of decent-sized acquisitions over the last seven months.

Average of 10-15% Price Decrease for Plastic FilamentsGrade: B
This is a tough one to really grade, as I have no general statistics as to the price of various lines of filament. With that said, there are now many companies selling generic brands of 3D printer filament, some priced under $20 per kg. Whether there is a 10-15% drop overall, who knows; however, I would guess prices have gone done a decent amount since May as the competition heats up.

Hewlett Packard Re-enters the 3D Printing MarketGrade: B+p3
Although at the time there were hints the HP would soon be stepping into the 3D printing arena, here we are in December and they have actually made a major announcement. At the end of October, HP showcased their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology to the world at an event in New York City, and although the machine itself won’t be available until 2016, this certainly marked a major entrance by the tech giant.

3D Printers Make Their Way Into Schools (30-40% of all American high schools) – Grade: C
This is another difficult prediction to gauge as we do not have data to confirm or refute this prediction. I am going to guess, however, based on my experience talking with educators, that my numbers have fallen shy. I do not think 30-40% of p1high schools in the US have at least one 3D printer, although that number is rapidly increasing. Education will certainly be one of the early beneficiaries of this technology, but funding may keep 3D printing out of some schools for a few more years.

Overall Grade: B-

Stay tuned to 3DPrint.com as I take a more comprehensive stab at 2015, with predictions for a year which should be the most disruptive we have seen yet for a variety of industries both small and large. Discuss my 2014 predictions with fellow 3D printing enthusiasts, and see what they had to say at the time in the 2014 3D Printing Prediction forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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