The 3D printing industry is at an interesting point, with both good and bad news coming out on a regular basis.
The most recent bad news comes from the earnings (losses, actually) reported by 2 public makers of 3D printers.
As reported in the WSJ article 3D Printer Firms Fall Flat, both 3D Systems and Stratasys reported ugly earnings due to "an increasingly uncertain outlook as many potential buyers hold out for what they hope will be better, faster machines."
Another reason for the general sales slow down is the long anticipated consumer market for 3D printers has not materialized, at least yet. Key quote:
The expected household market for printers hasn’t caught on, despite widespread availability of printers at big-box retailers for under $5,000. Less than 10% of Stratasys’s annual sales come from home users, according to an analyst estimate.
But even as it slumps a bit, there's still a lot enthusiasm around the 3D printing industry and no change in the view 3D will eventually fundamentally change how things are made.
For example, Google just announced they are leading a $100 million investment round in 3D manufacturing company Carbon3D. They have an incredibly cool manufacturing process they call CLIP - Continuous Liquid Interface Production.
This is a photochemical process, rather than the layer-by-layer process of traditional 3D printers, which allows them to "grow" functional parts at 100 times the speed of existing layer printers.
If it works, it could be the technology that delivers on the mass manufacturing promise of 3D printing.
There's been little doubt for years that 3D printing is a game changing technology. The question has been when will it finally enter mainstream use for industrial applications. As we've pointed out in the past, the hype around this technology has greatly exceeded the reality.
But 3D printing is growing up and already having a big impact in certain markets. We think over the next 5-7 years the reality will catch up with the hype.
We cover 3D printing extensively in our small manufacturing section.