Advances have been made over the past two decades to bring to the public an entirely new kind of standard: 3D printing. Over the last year in particular, we have experienced quite a bit of buzz around the next-gen form of technology. Gartner has even gone as far as to recommend that enterprises begin “experimenting with 3D printing technology to improve traditional product design and prototyping, with the potential to create new product lines and markets.”
As we embark on a new frontier, 3D printing is expected to continue acceleration towards mainstream with forecasts calling for it to become a $16 billion global industry by 2018. In support of these projections, Tech Pro Research recently conducted a survey to find out which organizations were currently using or evaluating the technology, and the best applications for business. Conducted in June 2014, the global survey attracted 624 respondents in a range of industries. The resulting report, entitled “3D Printing: Benefits, Trends, Enterprise Applications” focused on topics including:
- Who is using 3D printing (company size, industry type, departments, and respondent roles)
- What benefits they have found or seek to find
- Why businesses may have opted against 3D printing and what might change their minds
- The 3D printers/printing technology that are in use or are being evaluated
- The budgets that are being allocated
- Possible legal/moral/ethical concerns
- What respondents expect to see in their industries as a result of this new trend
The report found that relatively few companies have already deployed 3D printers, with only 12% of respondents currently using the technology as a part of their business operations presently. However, it appears that a number of businesses are evaluating the use of 3D printers with a combined 31% respondents now either actively using or considering using a 3D printer with plans to implement within the next 12 months, while an additional 29% claim to be evaluating the technology without any solid plans at the moment.
“These statistics may reflect the fact that 3D printing has been seen for some time as a niche product for research/development, education, and manufacturing purposes, geared more toward enterprises than small businesses. However, the fact that such a high percentage of people are evaluating the concept shows that this perception is undergoing change and beginning to appeal to an array of businesses. These notions are substantiated by breaking down the statistics involving 3D printing usage by organization size, industry segment, departments involved, and respondent job role,” the report states.
The report revealed that 73% of respondents are currently utilizing 3D printers for the testing of ideas and concepts, 67% for prototyping in research and development, while 40% are using the technology for manufacturing of parts for the organization, which is more than twice as much as the manufacturing of production goods (19%) and office tools/employee items (16%), and almost three times the size of manufacturing of customer supplies (14%).
The Tech Pro Research report then inquired as to what factors are holding organizations back from implementing the technology, as well as what might convince them to change their minds. Their findings? 66% of respondents said they had no business need for 3D printing, while 43% added they don’t perform engineering or manufacturing work.
“There’s no reason to implement a technology without a business need, but there may be better opportunities ahead for 3D printing manufacturers to identify and communicate new business needs that organizations aren’t aware of. The cost savings offered by 3D printing is a viable starting point for helping potential customers assess the value of 3D printing.”
As Gartner noted in last year’s report, the material science behind 3D printing processes and materials will continue to progress, and affordable 3D printers will continue to lower the cost of entry into manufacturing in the same way that e-commerce lowered the barriers to the sale of goods and services. When this occurs, the 3D printer market will continue to migrate from niche adoption to broad acceptance, driven by lower printer prices, the potential for cost and time savings, greater capabilities, and improved performance that drives benefits and markets.
You can access the entire “3D Printing: Benefits, Trends, Enterprise Applications” report here.