Chris Elsworthy, CEO of CEL and creator of the Robox 3D printer
If 2014 was the year when 3D printing entered the mainstream consciousness, and 2015 was the year when 3D printers started popping up in people’s homes, then what can we expect 2016 to hold for the 3D printing market?
We all love a bit of future-gazing, and while most predictions usually turn out to be highly inaccurate, there are already a few things on the horizon that might suggest how the 3D printing market might mature and develop during 2016.
At the very least, with hardware sales continuing to rise, we can expect the number of people owning a 3D printer and, therefore, fully understanding the technology to increase on a global scale. As 3D printing sales climb, we can also expect more stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things with their devices, whether it be saving lives, creating new products or simply making us laugh.
Moreover, with an increase in 3D printing sales will come a diversification in the needs of 3D printer owners. We will increasingly see 3D printing companies offering more features that are tailored to attracting new users, whether it be new tools to print in multiple materials, scanning objects to replicate or use experimental and new materials.
Following on from some of the big advances made this past year, 2016 will see 3D printing software continue to come on leaps and bounds. In some cases this will serve to make the experience more beginner-friendly, while in others it will add more complex tools for advanced users. The best software packages will manage to cater to both. Perhaps less glamourous, slicing engines will also continue to improve and become more efficient, speeding up the 3D printing process without needing any hardware upgrades.
Finally, 2016 will be the year when 3D printers become more useful as more devices enter the market that can print in a wider range of materials, and more printers already on the market become able to print in multiple materials or colours at the same time. I firmly believe that 3D printing will become more useful the more materials you can print at once. Very few objects we use are made of just one material – more often than not they consist of multiple materials with quite different properties. Imagine, for example, being able to print an alarm clock with the electrical components printed inside, or even a combustion engine with spark plugs and even oil already added. While we’re unlikely to see these particular complex examples this year, I do expect 2016 to be the year when multi-material 3D printing in the household starts to mature. Amateur designers and DIY enthusiasts will soon be able to use their 3D printers not just to experiment with design, but also with material properties.
2016 looks set to be a really exciting year for those of us in the 3D printing business, and I hope that we can continue to deliver an amazing service and innovative products to new and existing customers worldwide. 3D printing is already a technology that amazes millions of people around the globe, and I’m looking forward to continuing to wow the world in 2016.