5 reasons 3-D printing isn't quite ready for prime time | COOL 3DPRINTING | Scoop.it


The 3-D printing market could triple by 2018, but don't confuse that with a 3-D printing revolution.


If there was any doubt Wall Street is warming up to 3-D printing it was extinguished last week when Citi analyst Kenneth Wong initiated coverage of 3-D printer manufacturers Stratasys (SSYS) and 3D Systems (DDD), at the same time expressing in a client note that he believes the market for 3-D printing equipment and services will triple by 2018.


The market "is on the cusp of seeing much broader adoption across more upstream production applications and the consumer end market," Wong wrote. Shares of Stratasys and 3-D Systems -- as well as others in the space -- spiked.


"Increased utilization of existing systems as customers start to extend use case beyond small batch digital manufacturing" is behind this growth, Wong says.


Or, more plainly, 3-D printers are becoming less expensive, easier to use, and applicable to more -- and more complex -- kinds of objects and designs. Factor in a confluence of other catalysts, like the expiration of key patents that currently discourage competition in the space, and 3-D printing is poised to explode in the next few years.


Wong isn't the first analyst to make this observation, though for whatever reason his decidedly bullish client note found traction in the popular press, helping to buoy 3-D printing stocks for an afternoon. But has 3-D printing really reached its tipping point? To hear the hype machine tell it, the world is hurtling headlong into a 3-D printing revolution.


But while cheaper printers, expiring patents, and a wider range of applications will certainly help drive the market -- and perhaps even triple the value of 3-D printing's nascent marketplace in the near term -- a desktop manufacturing revolution this is not. Here are five reasons why.