3D printing has long been pegged as a technology that could disrupt traditional manufacturing and revolutionize the way products are created and delivered to consumers. However, investors have cooled to the industry in recent years, even as the technology continues to establish itself among manufacturers.

Though this technology hasn't paid off on its early hype, it may be finally finding its footing thanks to new innovations, a changing market environment and a more realistic set of expectations.

1

3D Printing Went Through the “Hype and Disillusionment Cycle"

Between 2012 and 2013, industry-leading companies like 3D Systems and Stratasys saw their stocks rise 333% and 800%, respectively. But by early 2014, investors grew skittish and fled 3D printing stocks in droves.1

2

The Industry May Be Ready to Emerge From Its Slump

The industry has continued to develop, albeit more slowly than investors initially expected. Two-thirds of American manufacturers have adopted it to some extent, whether to craft realistic prototypes of potential designs or in the actual manufacturing of final products.2

3

3D Printing Is Having an Impact on Manufacturing

The technology has proven valuable in the aerospace, automotive and consumer electronics industries, reducing costs, wastefulness and even the amount of time it takes to evaluate design concepts, increasing efficiency and leading to bolder, more innovative products.

4

Supply Chain Disruption Could Be Next

3D printing could lead to a “greatly simplified, highly responsive and infinitely flexible supply chain" that fulfills orders on demand.3 Manufacturers could potentially eschew massive, up-front investments in building up product inventories in favor of a more customized, lightweight model.

$7.3B

How much the 3D printing industry was worth at the end of 2016 4

$21B

How much the 3D printing industry is estimated to be worth by 20205

98%

The percentage of hearing aids made with 3D printers today6

“In 2013, a Goldman Sachs report identified 3D printing as one of eight industries that would 'remake the global economy,' because it offers 'higher degrees of customization, lower costs for complex designs, and reduced overhead for short-run parts and products.'7

Traditional manufacturing (also known as "reductive manufacturing") takes a piece of metal or other material and carves away what is not needed. 3D printing (“additive manufacturing") operates the other way around.

The 3D printing industry may benefit from some emerging economic trends.
Rising Wages

Wages are rising, not just here, but in China as well. That's encouraging manufacturers to look for ways to further automate their workplaces, particularly when it comes to engineering and tooling.

A Trend Away From Offshoring

The Trump administration's talk of implementing border adjustment taxes may spur manufacturers to reconsider offshoring the production of low-volume parts. If manufacturers are worried about a tax on imports, investing in U.S. manufacturing capabilities like 3D printing could make a lot of sense.

A Need for More Efficient Distribution

The technology could allow manufacturers to decentralize production, moving the final assembly closer to the end user and reducing costs associated with warehousing and transporting goods.

A Need for More Efficient Distribution

The technology could allow manufacturers to decentralize production, moving the final assembly closer to the end user and reducing costs associated with warehousing and transporting goods.