Are marketers misleading consumers with the descriptor '3D Printer' to sell a low-end manufacturing/fabrication tool developed for in home use (and is in no way, shape or form a printer)?

The term "3D printing" is already in common usage to describe additive manufacturing processes that produce objects based on digital files, as opposed to typical "printing" that produces images on a (usually) flat surface.

So no, that ship has already sailed, as it were.

Just as a 'dust cloth' is commonly understood as a means to collect dust (and not distribute it), it is the common understanding of the term that matters, not the literal meaning.

Is 3D printing very popular in the United States? Are there any books that teach DIY 3D printing?

Popularity is hard to define. The adoption rate is still very low among the general population, but public awareness that 3D printing exists is high and rising.

There have been several books published about DIY 3D printing (there's even a 3D Printing for Dummies). If I had to recommend one, it would be "Getting Started with RepRap: 3D Printing on Your Desktop" by Josef Prusa. Prusa is well-respected in the DIY 3D printing community, and unlike many authors in the space, he wrote his book about understanding the process rather than about the state of the art. As far as building your own machine, you'll want to stick with the internet – the current plans and best practices for that have been moving much too quickly for books to keep up. Your best resource is going to be the RepRap website and forums, and of course Google. If you want to keep up with the latest news on 3D printing, 3Ders and 3D Printing Industry  are two of the best sites to follow.

How does 3D printing work?

3D printing works by building up an object layer by layer. There are several 3D printing technologies and they are are all quite different.

One of them Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) works like this:

1. The 3D printer spreads out a layer of fine powder.
2. A laser hardens the powder in that layer that comprises the bottom slice of your part
3. A new layer of fine powder is spread out. The next slice of your part is hardened and joined to the first.
4. The rest of the powder remains loose. This supports the part as it is built up
5. This is repeated many times until your part is built.
6. Then your part is lifted from the loose powder.
7. It is then sandblasted and finished by hand.

An animation and video (disclosure: made by the company I work for) can be found here:

SLS is the process used by 3D Systems and EOS.

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) another 3D printing process was invented by Stratasys and also used by the RepRap project and the Makerbot 3D printers works like this:

1. A thin ABS plastic wire is extruded through a nozzle on a printing head.
2. The wire is melted and laid down filling in the bottom layer of a shape.
3. The printing head goes to its starting position and the build platform is lowered.
4. A new layer is laid down and your part is built up like this.

The Stratasys 3D printers have support material. This is later removed and lets you make more complicated structures and overhangs.

A Stratasys 3D printer works like this:

1. A thin ABS plastic wire is extruded through a printing head.
2. The wire is melted and laid down filling in the bottom layer of a shape.
3. The printing head goes to its starting position and the build platform is lowered.
4. A new layer is laid down and your part is built up like this.
5. If there is an overhanging part a second nozzle on the printing head extrudes the support material.
6. For example if you wanted to 3D print a person standing upright. If you've just 3D printed the neck you're going to have a problem 3D printing the jawline because the material has nothing to be built upon. It would just go everywhere. So what happens is that during the print support material is extruded from the second nozzle all around the body of the person. That way this material is in place for when you start to print the overhanging parts.
7. The part is taken from the 3D printer and the support material is removed.

Here you can see that: http://www.youtube.com/user/imat…

What are the 3D printing industry statistics like size market in $ in the world, the number of 3D machines sold worldwide and per nation, the number of enterprises interested in 3D printing, and the average price per professional printer?

Check the Wohlers Report 2014  – that's got most of the info you seek!

…up to date statistics are hard to get, but in brief:

World Market Size: Goldman Sachs estimates 3Dp is currently (2014) a $2.2B market

Number of machines sold worldwide: For desktop 3d printing, no one has an accurate figure, given the velocity of the market (more than 54 printer startups in the $1-3k price range, not to mention sub $1k and +$3k ranges and numerous crowdfunding campaigns and Chinese knock offs). In 2011, which was a little bit more surveyable, more than 23,000 sub $5k desktop 3D printers were sold, which is almost three times as much as a year earlier. And in addition, 6,494 professional professional 3D printers were sold worldwide. Those numbers are widely outdated now though.

If you were to explain 3d printing through analogy how would you do about it?

With 3D printing you build a loaf of bread slice by slice.

Fused Deposition Modeling (the process used by Stratasys, Makerbot, RepRap and most of the desktop systems): 

  • is similar to trying to make an object using a toothpaste tube and your right and left hand.
  • The toothpaste is the filament,
  • the tube is the extruder,
  • your left hand is the build platform,
  • your right hand and arm are the motion stage.

    1. Your right hand  squeezes out toothpaste from the tube to draw the first layer onto your left palm.
    2. Your draw the shape of the first layer using the toothpaste.
    3. Then your left palm then goes one millimeter lower.
    4. Then you squeeze out more toothpaste on top of the previous layer.
    5. Layer by layer you make the thing you want to make. 

In the video below you can see how I explained it to kids a few years ago.

Which 3D printer is ideal for someone who is new in this field if price is not a concern?

Money no object I'd get a Concept Laser X Line 1000 R. Its about 1.5 million euros or so, it has a build chamber of 630 by 400 by 500 mm and it would be cool that only Daimler, Monash University and you had one. It prints aluminium and titanium alloys. You'd probably end up spending like 2.5 million if you threw in all the finishing equipment you'd need so you can make satellite and aircraft parts.  
Maschinenlösungen für Laserschmelzverfahren Metall, Additive Fertigung

Here it is next to a person for scale:
And here it is arriving at Monash University in Australia:

So it won't exactly be the easiest of systems to operate but money no object thats what I'd buy. Look, if you could 3D print titanium, aluminium, iconel, implants, aerospace parts, satellite parts etc. using a 1 KW laser, soon enough nerds nearby will help you operate the machine. You will also need HVAC, finishing, post finishing, hardening, HIP, EDM, compressed air and gas installation, industrial power etc. But, it just works with an ethernet cable and  windows, you'll get the hang of it soon enough. And its well worth it. You might want to reserve a space of around 500 square meters for the whole operation. Depending on the machine your looking at a space of around a 130 square meters just for the machine. Other options would be an SLM Solutions 500 HL, or an Eos M 400 or an Arcam Q10.

The SLM Solutions machine has a build volume of 500 by 280 by 325 mm, the optional powder sieving station is the bit on the left. Totally get that too. The printer has dimensions of 3 by 2.5 by 1.1 meter and weighs around two thousand kilos, the powder sieving station is larger than the printer weighing 2500 kilos and has dimensions of 3.5 by 2 by 2.7 meters, so do check if that works for you. The printer costs 700,000 Euros and prints stainless steel, hastaloy, iconel, cobalt chrome and lots of other metals.

SLM Solutions GmbH

The EOS M 400 with a 400 by 400 by 400 build volume. It prints in aluminium and iconel and you should totally also get the unpacking station when that comes out. Costs around 1.2 million.

EOS M 400 for Additive Manufacturing for the Industrial Production of High-Quality Large Metal Parts.


Another option is an Arcam Q10 or Q20. Are you more interested in orthopedic implants? Then get the Q10, more interested in titanium parts for aerospace? Get the Q20. Do spend some time deciding this because, I know money is no object but there is a 300k price difference between the two with the Q10 costing 565,000 Euros and the Q20 costing over 800,000. 

Arcam AB – Additive Manufacturing for Implants and Aerospace, EBM

A skull implant made with a Q10

Or you could go with a Trumpf TruLaser Cell 7040, with a great build volume of 4000 by 2000 by 750mm. This will let you repair turbine blades and 3D print metals such as steel, copper and aluminium on top of damaged or worn metal to restore it. You can also use it to cut and weld. Again it will need its share of
accoutrements and will really come into its own in an industrial setting.
 
TruLaser Cell Series 7000

If you'd like to do some casting I'd opt for a Voxeljet VX4000. This has a build volume of 4 by 2 by 1 meter. So you could make super cool large things with this for only 1.4 million Euros. You'd have to of course get your own casting facility and it will take up a lot of space. But, just think of all the things you could build with it. Also, think of how cool it would be to walk around inside your own 3D printer. 
large-format 3D printer VX4000

This designer made his own room divider with one:
Or maybe you'd prefer sculpture?

If you want to produce a lot of parts in metal inexpensively I'd suggest an ExOne S-Max as an alternative. I mean you will have to get a pattern shop, oven and some other stuff but its a great system. The build dimensions are 1800 by 1000 by 700mm so that lets you make a lot of stuff.
Maybe make a mold, make parts it will be great.
Or maybe some art

The power consumption on these systems is a bit much and you'd probably spend an additional 500k a year operating them. I know you did say money no object but, looking for a cheaper option? Why not go for plastic. Why not try an EOS P 800, Objet Connex 1000 or a SLA system. I think you'll find that these are also much cheaper to run and easier to operate. They also require less space.

The coolest thing about the EOS P 800 is that it prints PEEK which you can implant in the human body and can have shape memory properties. It costs 900,000 Euros and has a build volume of 730 X 380 X 540. You will need a depowdering station and HVAC, a mixing station and some other stuff but its super simple to operate when compared with the DMLS systems. If you wanted a very productive system to make lots of stuff I'd totally pick this one.

http://www.eos.info/systems_solu…


3D print your own UAV body with the less expensive EOS P 760, for only 580,000 Euro.
And as you can see you need a lot less equipment with a plastics system:

The Connex is relatively inexpensive when compared to the other machines coming in at 600,000 Euros, it has a build volume of 1000 by 800 by 500mm and you can do cool things such as 3D print gradient materials.

http://www.stratasys.com/3d-prin…

Also super cheap is a 3D Systems ProX 950. If you'd want a lot of detailed things I'd go for this one. Its only 600,000 euros and has a build volume of 1500 by 750 by 550mm. I think that its the coolest looking one too along with the Q20. With this machine you can make a full sized prototype car dashboard in two days.

ProX™ 950


Another option is the second cheapest one in this list at only 330,000 Euros. It can 3D print color and gradient materials and its the Objet500 Connex3. Its also super small when compared to the other printers is only 430 Kilos and a dainty 1.4 by 1.2 by 1.1 meter. So together with the needed power washing station it should require much less space and be easier to operate in an office friendly environment. Its probably the best system in terms of user friendliness on this list.

http://www.stratasys.com/3d-prin…

Space in your house very constrained? Then perhaps opt for a 3D printer that can fit on your desktop. In my opinion the best destop 3D printer is the Envisiontec 3D Bioplotter Manufacturer Series. Its super tiny when compared to the other printers and only has a build volume of 150 by 150 by 150mm, only weighs 130 Kilos and could fit onto a reasonably sized sturdy desk. measuring in at only 976 by 623 by 773mm.

http://envisiontec.com/products/…

You can switch out five different print cartridges during one print job and print with lots of different materials such as hydroxypapatite, titanium, tricalcium phosphate, PCL, gelatin, agar, citosan, fibrin, colagen, polyurethane and silicone. You can heat and cool the print heads and print lots of different type of materials on one part. So you could print really cool things with this like bone, scaffolds for growing organs, tissue etc. And its a steal at only 150,000 Euro.  Its a very accurate and well made system and currently in my opinion the best desktop system you could buy money no object. But, if I were given the choice I'd probably get the Concept Laser X Line R.

Actually after thinking it over I'm not so sure. I mean Sciaky say they have closed loop control as an option on their 3.6 million euro VX.4 system. In some respects the Concept Laser may be better but in terms of making large stuff this is better. Some may not consider it a true 3D printer but with a 4927 x 2286 by 1778 mm build volume you could really make some proper aircraft parts with it.
Sciaky, Inc. | Electron Beam Welding | Additive Manufacturing

I know you said money no object but you can pick up a used smaller one on ebay for 1.4 million US. Seems like a good deal. 30 day money back guarantee! But, buyer pays for shipping and that will be quite expensive.
SCIAKY Electron Beam Welder EBW Model VX.3-68x68x84 CNC

With this machine you can make really cool stuff like space station components, parts for the Dreamliner, parts for the Joint Strike Fighter. Lots of things. So I'm undecided between either the Sciaky or concept laser machine at the moment.

What new markets could develop directly or indirectly from 3D printing businesses?

It will affect all fields. Everyday we hear about new developments in different areas (food, space, health,..), and new materials.

There is a lot of discussion about supply chain impact. Here I am not convinced about the impact. So 3DP is perfect for customized products but markets will still want some standard, repeatable products with big volumes. In this case mould based production is unbeatable in terms of speed and cost.

Let's put a bulb for example. I don't think we will end up with a different design for bulbs in each home, so it makes more sense to massive produce this.

I cannot tell whether this production will continue to be done offshore or onshore. There are many economic, demographic and geopolitical factors in play here:

  • increase of standard of living in low cost countries making their labor costs less competitive
  • increase of technology and automation in plants (see Apple insourcing fabrication to US)
  • supply chain changes due to 3DP will make more production in country, so less transportation over seas which can make the remaining products to have higher transportation cost
  • change of mindset in customers: quality vs cheap, customized vs standard, …
  • and other unknown now

What is interesting to me is that 3d printing (formerly called Rapid Prototyping) is an almost 30 years old technology. It was not until first patents expired and the open source community developed the first consumer 3dprinters that the technology boomed. Up to only few years, it was an industrial process for prototyping quick and cheap. Nothing more.

With more patents expiring and letting all technology unlocked for the benefit of society, who knows what we will make out of it!

Does Apple have any chance in the 3D printing market?

The factors driving this market are reduction of errors, high degree of accuracy, efficient use of raw materials, ability to build customized products, simultaneous use of multiple materials for printing, efficient use of production time and financials, and competency over traditional techniques among others.

3D printing market is estimated to garner $8.6 billion by 2020.

Key companies for in 3D printing market report till 2020 include

  • 3D Systems
  • Arcam AB
  • Autodesk, Inc.
  • Stratasys Ltd.
  • The ExOne Company
  • Hoganas AB
  • Optomec, Inc
  • Organavo Holdings, Inc
  • Ponoko Limited
  • Voxeljet AG.

North America was the largest revenue-generating region in the industrial products market in 2014. Europe would be the largest revenue-generating region by 2020. This region is expected to hold its leadership by 2020.

Get sample research here – World 3D Printing Market

How can 3D printing be applied to the field of medicine?

Medicine was one of the very first applications for 3-D printing. It is used to create scaffolding structures that less tenacious tissue can grow onto in the process of creating grafts and other surgical appurtenances.

In fact, 3-D printing just recently saved yet another infant's life.

See: Surgically Implanted 3D-Printed Tracheal Splint Saves Baby's Life