Sales of 3-D printers are expected to grow by 19 percent in 2014, to $1.4 billion by the end of the year, according to a report issued by the research firm IBISWorld. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3-D printing is a process of making three-dimensional objects from a computer image. As more manufacturers use 3-D printers to make parts, components, and finished products on demand and in almost any location, the technology is expected to have a major impact on supply chains. At the moment most companies that are using 3-D printers in commercial applications employ them to create prototypes because 3-D printers are limited to using certain materials, according to the report.
IBISWorld said the price for most commercial 3-D printers begins at about $15,000. The research noted that the printers are widely used for manufacturing customized medical devices, such as hearing aids and dental implants. Aerospace is expected to be a strong growth market in the future as manufacturers deploy this technology as a way to reduce the weight of parts used in aircraft.