We shouldn't expect 3D printers to be commonplace in households until 2019 at the earliest, says analyst Gartner.
It claims that 3D printing is as long as 10 years away from mainstream consumer adoption, but believes the tech will have a bigger impact on businesses and the health sector in the shorter term.
"Consumer 3D printing is around five to 10 years away from mainstream adoption," said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner.
"Today, approximately 40 manufacturers sell the 3D printers most commonly used in businesses, and over 200 startups worldwide are developing and selling consumer-oriented 3D printers, priced from just a few hundred dollars. However, even this price is too high for mainstream consumers at this time, despite broad awareness of the technology and considerable media interest."
"Hype around home use obfuscates the reality that 3D printing involves a complex ecosystem of software, hardware and materials whose use is not as simple to use as 'hitting print' on a paper printer."
Gartner states that macro 3D printing of large structures and classroom 3D printing are more than 10 years away from mainstream adoption, partly because adoption of any new technology within secondary and post-secondary schools "is always expensive and difficult to implement, especially when considered in relation to the explosion of other educational technology that is competing for attention in the classroom".
It believes that some 3D printing technologies are maturing faster than others and will be widely available in just a few years, with some already in general use, like 3D printing for prototyping.
In two to five years, the analyst expects there will be greater adoption of enterprise 3D printing, nurtured in part by the continued acceptance and use of 3D print creation software, 3D scanners and 3D printing service bureaus.
"At around this time, 3D printing of medical devices will offer exciting, life-altering benefits that will result in global use of 3D printing technology for prosthetics and implants," commented Basiliere.
Here is Gartner's 'Hype Cycle' for 3D printing: