It is well accepted in advanced manufacturing communities that additive will play an increasingly important role in the development of high tech products. The ability to create structures that are lightweight, complex, and customizable is of great utility for a range of industrial and medical applications, and adoption of additive in those areas is proceeding rapidly.
In the consumer space, however, additive has taken a different path. 3D printed consumer products tend towards whimsy; the parts made on consumer grade printers are barely distinguishable from the plastic objects purchased for $.99 in bazaars around the world.
I believe that functional, engineered consumer products made by additive manufacturing are an inevitability. Both personalization and single piece flow offer big advantages to consumers and producers alike. But the number of consumer products that will be converted to additive is limited by the availability of process chain efficiency data. As a product manager today, the viability of additive processes is totally opaque, and that will only change by better understanding the efficiencies (and inefficiencies) of the additive manufacturing toolchain.
Over the past year, I've been developing a line of bicycle parts made exclusively through advanced manufacturing techniques. The first entry into this line is a 3D printed titanium seatmast topper. My work has been part research, part early-stage startup, and a summary of my early results were published in Wohlers Report 2014.
Much thanks on this project goes out to: Clay Jones, Jordan Husney, Terry Wohlers, Tim Caffrey, Kane Hsieh, Scott Miller, Jen McCabe, Duann Scott, Greg Irwin, Dustin Lindley, Rich Stephenson, Chuck Hansford, Greg Morris, Mark Kirby, David Ewing - and many others.