K12 drives demand for 3D printers

Schools and universities are the primary market drivers for consumer 3D printers costing under $2,500
By: | Issue: December, 2015
November 16, 2015

Analysts expect 3D printer shipments to double worldwide to nearly 496,500 units in 2016Ñin large part due to demand from K12 schools and universities, according to a new report.

3D printersÑdevices that create physical objects from digital plansÑare more common in STEM classes than in people’s homes, despite manufacturers’ initial expectations for the machines.

Schools and universities are the primary market drivers for consumer 3D printers costing under $2,500, according to a September report from Gartner Inc., an independent technology research company.

“Rapid quality and performance innovations across all 3D printer technologies are driving both enterprise and consumer demand, with unit shipment growth rates for 3D printers increasing significantly,” says Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, in a press release. “The 3D printer market is continuing its transformation from a niche market to a broad-based, global market of enterprises and consumers.”

By 2019, Gartner predicts worldwide 3D printer shipments will reach more than 5.6 million.

Part of the rapid growth comes from abroad, the report states. For example, China is making major investments in 3D printing to use in schools this year and next.

The Chinese government intends to offer comprehensive training to educators and to create 3D printing courses, beginning with the nation’s 400,000 elementary schools, according to a report, “National Additive Manufacturing Industry Promotion Plan 2015-2016,” released by China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

No data exists on the number of U.S. schools that own 3D printers overall. But more than 5,000 K12 schools and universities nationwide have MakerBot’s 3D printers, company spokesperson Johan-Till Broer says. Other companies selling the printers include Stratasys, 3D Systems and Variquest.

Career and technical education staff members often convince schools to buy 3D printers, says Lan Neugent, interim executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA).

“Educators understand that when children have the ability to see the results of their theoretical thinking in a concrete form, it brings reality to the classroom,” Neugent says. “As schools are working on STEM and college and career readiness, it’s a natural progression that you would get a fairly inexpensive device to cut across those categories.”

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