Research: 60 percent of enterprises are using or evaluating 3D printing

Summary:Tech Pro Research's latest survey reveals that a majority of respondents are already using or considering the use of 3D printers in the enterprise. The resulting report also included budget plans, best uses and favored vendors.

The new frontier in printing is 3D technology, and Tech Pro Research conducted a survey to find out who is using it or evaluating it, and the best applications for business.

The global survey was conducted in June 2014 and attracted 624 respondents in a range of industries. The resulting report, 3D Printing: Benefits, trends, enterprise applications, focused on topics including:

  • Who is using 3D printing
  • 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 technologies 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

Download Tech Pro Research’s report — 3D Printing: Benefits, trends, enterprise applications.

Company usage of 3D printing

3d printing chart 1

The report found that relatively few companies have deployed 3D printers at present, with only 12 percent of respondents currently using the technology, but a significant number of businesses are evaluating them.

A combined 31 percent of respondents are either actively using or considering using a 3D printer with plans to implement within the next 12 months, while another 29 percent are evaluating this technology without any solid plans; 40 percent of respondents report "no interest" in the topic.

The report stated: "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."

Current use of 3D printers

3d printing chart 2

The report showed that 73 percent of respondents are using 3D printers for testing of ideas and concepts and 67 percent are using the printers for prototyping in research and development. Manufacturing of parts for the organization's use came in at 40 percent, which is more than twice as much as the manufacturing of production goods (19 percent) and office tools/employee items (16 percent), and nearly three times the manufacturing of customer supplies (14 percent). However, these last three categories are still a respectable size.

3D printing appears to be fulfilling specific needs for many organizations, but a large segment of respondents said they're not interested in pursuing the technology. So Tech Pro Research asked what factors are holding them back and what might convince them to change their minds.

Reasons for not using 3D printing

3d printing chart 3

Two-thirds of those who took the survey said they had no business need for 3D printing, and 43 percent said they don't perform engineering or manufacturing work.

The report stated: "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."

The 3D printing revolution

3D printing is obviously a growing area of technology, and many are interested in learning more about the opportunities their business could reap from the use of a 3D printer. Some companies are already pioneering new advances by reducing labor and production costs and creating goods for their businesses to sell, although costs will need to come down even further to make 3D printing the everyday 21st century version of a trip to the hardware store.

Overall, Tech Pro Research's survey indicates that the 3D printing revolution is well underway and will soon pull in more participants as it grows in size and capabilities.

Read more about 3D printing in Tech Pro Research’s full report — 3D Printing: Benefits, trends, enterprise applications.

Tech Pro Research is ZDNet's and TechRepublic's premium content sister site.

Topics: Printers, Emerging Tech

About

Teena Hammond is a senior editor at TechRepublic. She has 20 years of journalism experience as an editor and writer covering a range of business and lifestyle topics. More than 2,000 of her published articles have appeared online and in books, newspapers and magazines around the world.

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