3D printing, which has been around for 30 years, has mainly been used to create product prototypes. That's because product designs are easily manipulated in computer-aided design (CAD) software before being sent off to a printer.
Because of its slow speed, 3D printing will likely never be used to manufacture tens of thousands of anything, but the printers are expected to double or triple in speed over the next decade.
"You won't 3D print a Ford F150 truck or 400,000 screws, but can manufacture jet engines or customized orthopedics for patients," said Anthony Vicari, a Lux Research associate and the lead author of a report on 3D printing's future. "You may be able to save manufacturing costs and reduce the prices of end parts."