That wasn't true even then, but over the past couple of years there has been a growing recognition that, first, such technology does exist, and second, that it was quickly moving into the commercial space.
Exactly where the tipping point was between novelty and viability isn't clear, but this year for the first time at the consumer electronics show, International CES, in
"In the beginning it was very hard to explain what we were doing," said Scuplteo co-founder and CEO
Just how 3D printers work is rather complicated. They don't really print as much as build, stacking particle after particle of some material, usually plastic but sometimes a resin or even metal, to build an object according to the blue print that's being used. Prices for the material vary, but a cartridge of plastic costs under
You can print almost anything. 3D
Moreau said Sculpteo is now getting regular orders for casing, usually for cameras or electronics.
"This is a typical order," he said. "We have customer who order 1,000 parts every month."
The company, headquartered in
MakerBot has been offering 3D printers for several years, but their MakerBot Replicator 2, which was released in 2012, was one of the first widely available commercial printers.
She said the printers are in demand by engineers, architects and even sculptors, and the average buyer isn't just looking to just print cases for their smartphone.
MakerBot is showcasing three models at CES this year. A desktop model called the Replicator Mini for
The novelty of being able to produce a 3D object aside, the application of 3D printing are likely to cause a massive upheaval in the manufacturing industry, Moreau said.
Instead of having to order parts overseas, which can be expensive to ship, 3D printers are knocking out custom-made orders of relatively low volumes.
"Customers no longer have to wait 6 months to get their order back from
Wohlers Assocaites, a consulting firm that tracks the 3D printing markets, said the industry is expected to see double-digit growth over the next several years. By 2017, Wohlers said the sale of 3D-printing products and services will approach
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