3D printing has been around for over two decades now, but it has really come into its own these past few years. You could even argue that 2013 was the year that 3D printing went mainstream with the release of several affordable 3D printers that greatly expanded the hobbyist movement. It's that expansion that led Shapeways to have a rosy outlook on 3D printing in 2013.
In a series of slides released today, Shapeways delves into this year's maker movements and the effect they had on the 3D printing industry. As you might expect, there's a lot of attention paid to expansion as more and more people are now getting into 3D printing. While the hardware may be expanding, Shapeways is even more impressed by how many people are learning 3D modeling to take advantage of their new printers.
For those who don't know how to use 3D modeling software, Shapeways points to the rise in apps and software that make it easy. As more 3D printers get into the hands of non-professionals, the number of 3D modeling apps will surely increase.
As for businesses, Shapeways sees 3D printers leading the charge in what they call "garage entrepreneurs." In other words, more and more people are able to start their own businesses in a variety of fields thanks to the flexibility offered by 3D printers. For example, check out this custom chocolate delivery company that makes all of its products with 3D printers.
While Shapeways does a good job of touching upon all the major 3D printer innovations in 2013, it does neglect what is perhaps the most important (and controversial). Earlier this year, Defense Distributed, for better or worse, made 3D printing a common household term by printing a gun entirely out of plastic. Since then, other designers have made 3D printed rifles and even a 3D printed metal handgun.
Image via slideshare