By the mid 2000s, the sector started to show signs of distinct diversification with two specific areas of emphasis which are much more clearly defined today. At one end was the industrial 3D printers used to create high value and highly engineered complex parts. These printers are very expensive and the cost of these 3D printers is going northwards. The market for these printers is growing. But the results are only now really starting to become visible in production and applications across aerospace, automotive, medical and jewelry sectors. At the other end were the low cost 3D printers for concept modeling. These printers were used for concept development and functional prototyping. And these were being developed specifically as office and user friendly cost effective systems. However, these systems were all still very much for industrial applications and these printers didn’t enter the consumer realm.
In 2007, 3D Systems launched the first sub $10,000 printer but this printer never became successful for various reasons. Later Desktop Factory announced the launch of sub $5000 printer. Many predicted this to the inflection point for 3D printing industry bringing the printer to a much wider audience. But the company faltered in the run up to production. The company is later acquired by 3D systems in 2008. At around the same time, a new movement was taking shape which changed / advanced the industry leaps and bounds way beyond one’s imagination. It is called RepRap phenomenon / movement. Dr. Bowyer conceived the concept of an open-source, self-replicating 3D printer in 2004 and in the following years, after heavy slog from his team, he was able to build the working prototype of a 3D printer using the deposition process. This event can be considered the precursor of what is now called “Desktop 3D printing”.
In January 2009, the ﬁrst commercially available 3D printer based on the RepRap concept was oﬀered for sale. This was the BfB RapMan 3D printer. Makerbot Industries was also actively involved in the RepRap movement and later launched a commercial 3D printer, departing from their open source philosophy. From then on, various 3D printers emerged, each with a marginal unique selling point (USP). Though RepRap was conceived as an open source movement, many took inspiration from this concept and launched their own commercial 3D printers. Unlike in other technologies, various commercial products paved way for open source, in case of 3D printing, it is the open source that paved way for commercial 3D printing and also for desktop 3D printing.
By 2012, FDM became the most popular 3D printing technology for entry level 3D printers and it continued to remain so. As of 2014, many new 3D printers based on FDM technology are launched on a regular basis each with a minor tweaking. Also in 2012, various alternate 3D printing processes were introduced at the entry level of the market. The B9Creator (utilizing DLP technology) came ﬁrst in June, followed by the Form 1 (utilizing stereolithography) in December. Both were launched via the funding site Kickstarter and both enjoyed huge success.