Gartner’s annual symposium usually focuses on information technology and ICT, but at this year’s event in Cape Town there has been one subject that has been slipped into almost every presentation – the rise in the popularity of 3D printing, not only across the world, but also in South Africa.

The topic of creating parts and products from melting plastic has been making enough waves over the last couple of years that it has been included in Gartner’s top ten technology trends that will be strategic for most organisations in 2015.

“3D printing will reach a tipping point over the next three years as the market for relatively low-cost 3D printing devices continues to grow rapidly and industrial use expands significantly. New industrial, biomedical and consumer applications will continue to demonstrate that 3D printing is a real, viable and cost-effective means to reduce costs through improved designs, streamlined prototyping and short-run manufacturing,” said David Cearley, vice president and Gartner Fellow.

Cearley explains that 3D printing is in a rather weird spot in the market right now, as it is actually in an emerging, growing and mature stage – all at the same time. It’s emerging as it slowly being implemented into household and small businesses, growing stage as it has been established in some quarters, and a mature phase as it has been used for industrial applications for some time.

“It’s really not new technology, but what’s different is that it’s has an 82% compound growth rate. It’s at the inflection point of its capabilities. It has been designed for a specific use, and not as a replacement for cheap manufacture.

It can be used for almost anything – from planes, to tanks and medical equipment. It really has an impact in many markets, and it has the potential to save many lives in the process. I definitely think that more companies should start investing and investigating 3D printing.”

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.