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3D printing’s growth and peripheral market opportunities

3D printer
3D printer
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

3D printing will likely generate a paradigmatic change in the way business is done over the next 10 years. 3D printers are already printing functional handguns, prosthetic hands, and homes.

As one might guess, the implications of what is expected to be a $12 billion industry by 2020 are myriad and colossal. And with the growth of an industry of this size, it will become increasingly lucrative to provide peripheral products or services that help meet the needs of the larger 3D printing industry.

The current capabilities of 3D printing

3D printers are currently capable of printing objects and materials that are already altering businesses’ supply chains and production.

This year in China, a home-building company printed 10 homes in 24 hours from an oversized 3D printer, using entirely recycled material.

GE has invested in state-of-the-art 3D printers so that it can cut costs in manufacturing fuel nozzles for jet engines, fuel nozzles that can endure temperatures around 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

And here’s a list of 10 businesses, including GE, that are using 3D printing technology in innovative ways, released April 23, 2014.

Popularity and affordability

Meanwhile, 3D printers are becoming more popular and more affordable. According to Gartner Research Group, businesses are expected to spend approximately $536 million on 3D printers in 2014, and the general public is expected to spend roughly $133 million.

For an example of the type of printer that will be available to the public, a company called M3D is already manufacturing a $299 3D printer that can sit adjacent to a laptop and coffee cup on a desktop.

As the 3D printer market grows, it will spur the growth of peripheral markets that facilitate the growing needs of a rapidly evolving industry.

A few peripheral players

Consumers or organizations using 3D printers must input digital designs so that the printer “knows” what to print. Thus, there is a need within the market for online exchanges where print-designers and printer-users can interact to share, sell, or purchase digital designs for 3D printers. One such marketplace, based in Eastern Europe, is that of CGTrader.

There is also a peripheral market for producers of materials for 3D printing. As 3D printers are used more often within the aerospace and healthcare industries, the need for sophisticated materials like carbon fiber grows as well. Thus, there is a burgeoning market for producers of such materials.

Overall, as 3D printers are increasingly used for business and consumer purposes, profitable peripheral market opportunities will arise. This peripheral space could represent a boon for savvy entrepreneurs and businesses that can discern and help meet the needs of a 3D printing industry with a very bright future.