The US research company Canalys anticipates the 3-D printing market to come to the value of 16.2 billion dollars by 2018. Still a vague concept for a majority of the population, 3-D printing products seem to have a serious future ahead of them. Their novelty has meant that this new type of printing is springing up everywhere: stores are mushrooming, above all in Germany, the United States, and arriving in France, while 3-D printing cafés are even flourishing in Argentina for increasingly different usages. Recently, for example, thanks to 1,000 hours of work, a 9-kilo kayak measuring 5 metres, composed of hundreds of printed ABS plastic pieces, was produced by an American. At the same time, the Spanish Foodini has come up with a 3-D pizza printer. The French company Sculpteo, a specialist in the domain and winner of the Best of Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in 2013, observes that its turnover has doubled every year since its creation in 2009.
Customised objects created at low rates
“We create all sorts of unique objects, with certain size restrictions, in resin, polyamide powder, lost wax… They might be plastic chess sets, telephone cases for the company Orange, but also various prototypes, copies of human beings,” specifies Jean-François Kitter, Communications Head at Sculpteo. “the advantage is being able to produce a single unit cheaply.”In Paris, 3-D printing companies are popping up all over the place.
Objectplot.fr, established in France since May 2013, the French subsidiary of a German company with the same name and specialised in 3-D printing for professional uses, is also recording pleasing results.“We can’t provide any price ranges. An example, though? Printing of a 40-cm figurine in powder will cost 1,600 euros, while the same product with a perfectly smooth finish is worth 3,000 euros,” illustrates a company head.
Plastic, plaster and powder are used to fill the needs of architects, surgeons, engineers, and also sculptors. Elsewhere, other materials can also be found, and as the industry gains in popularity and competition is rising, prices are beginning to fall.
Creation made simple
Research analysts at Canalys are optimistic about the growth prospects for 3-D printing. Analyst Joe Kempton sees growth being “driven by three main factors: customization potential, convenience and manufacturing efficiencies.” This viewpoint is backed up by a comment from Senior Research Analyst Tim Shepherd: ”We are at the inflection point for 3-D printing. It has now moved from a new and much-hyped, but largely unproven manufacturing process to a technology with ability to produce real, innovative, complex and robust products. This is a fast-evolving market that will look very different in five years’ time.”