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

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: 3D Printing: Building the Future, Emerging Tech, Printers

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  • Google trends does not agree

    Apparently if they are, they're not using Google because it shows almost no interest in 3D printing.
    Buster Friendly
  • Hector

    What's happening today in ZDNet with 3D printers?
  • Is 3D printing for your company

    When Boeing and Snecma have a joint manufacturing facility in Toulouse to manufacture one piece 3D printed turbofans in one piece (instead of 200 plus parts) that are lower cost, stronger, lighter, take less time to produce,and BAE are doing the same with other aerospace products and Lockheed Martin are also doing the same and claiming faster cheaper stronger etc. etc. etc.

    Well at this time it's a moot point regarding if a company should be into 3D printing or if they are refuse in the dustbin of history?

    Scientia Non Domus,

    • RE: Is 3D printing for your company


      For certain industries 3D print will make the impossible possible. But sorry this article is misleading --

      * First of all the prime user of this tech will be manfacturing. Yet BLS has manafacturing as only number 4 in the rank of impact to the economy. What does a bank need with a 3D printer?
      * Even with manafacturing there is a split. Most jobs are long run, bread and butter injection molding (plastic or metals) opportunities. 3D print will never be able to compete in those spaces even with die costs factored in.
      * 3D print is slooooooow compared to injection molding practices today. Very doubtful that a 3D print shop will be filling any million unit orders anytime soon.
      * The Internet invites consolidation. There is no need to go out and buy a $100k high precision printer when I can go online, upload my design, get a quote, have it printed and shipped to me at far less cost. That consolidation factor means that there will be far fewer of the high end systems sold than many expect.
      * On the home front, do we seriously think that Dear Mom is going to design, evaluate, upload and wait 2 days to print out a kiddies shoe? Pftt. She will be down at the local mart, pay less, and have it on the kids feet before the printer has laid down the first layer.
      * PLA is expensive! When its for R&D cost is not a factor. For a production run it is.

      3D print will excel in several areas. -

      1) R&D which the facts in the article prove out.
      2) Speciality items that are one offs or very short runs.
      3) Can't be manafactured any other way. Items that have undercuts or impossible draft angles.
      4) The arts. Fact I suspect that the Arts will adopt 3D print more than industry will. Their products are generally one offs or short runs. 3D will make possible objects d'art that have eluded practioners for centuries and they will have the time to explore those possibilities
  • Is 3D Printing for your Company

    GE Aviation is investing $50 million in a 3D printing plant.
  • What is 3D printing?

    It is the automation of the processes to making parts and assembling only.
  • 3D Printing usefulness is limited

    3D printers available to small business have 2 grades, low end consumer and high grade commercial. Both grades require a digital solid model with X,Y, & Z coordinates to represent the object. The consumer grade melts plastic resin from a spool of material and places a small dab or bead of melted resin in a particular location repeatedly to layer the mass of an object. The commercial machines use a variety of methods to melt or fuse resins or metals to place materials in those particular locations to build up an object.

    Both categories use expensive resins as their consumables and the consumer grade has the highest markup - we pay $1.20 /Lb of polyethylene resin for injection molding and would have to pay $25.00 /Lb for the same resin for consumer grade 3D printing. The commercial grade machines that use resins and materials that have about the same markup, and sometimes higher.

    The consumer grade 3D printers are low resolution, imprecise, and unreliable - you get better mean time between failures from a Black & Decker toaster. Without CNC grade ball screws on the X,Y, & Z axis the consumer grade printers are worthless for precision fabrication or modeling. They are suitable for toys, art objects, and show-and-tell prototypes to justify exorbitant charges for computer modeling and design time to the poor idiot ("I just invented a new widget and it's going to make millions, I just know it...") who often hire those services. Even with a cost under $2000 they are still worthless for serious fabrication, but possibly useful for producing prototype casting cores - if you could get the right burn-out resin or wax to use.

    The commercial grade 3D printers are very expensive and can produce precision models, but for the small business the cost is not justifiable - the machines are $10,000 to $50,000 (and up) and the consumables inventory needed can be about $2-5000 and up. You need to have a workstation capable of digital 3D solid modeling support, the software to model with, and a modeler who has been schooled in the complexity of creating solid models - $10, 000 and up. unless you making particular exotic parts (like turbo fan blades) from particular material compositions for sintering into finished products, the cost to make something just to look at in your hand and fiddle with is crazy expensive.

    For small business the use of a design bureau that is in the business of making 3D printed models is the right choice. For the cost of a commercial 3D printing setup a small business could have a complete prototype/low rate production machine shop on site that could produce real cash flow.

    The novelty factor of 3D printing just doe not translate into dollars that will pay the bills for small businesses.
    Makes Things
  • 3-D Printing

    3-D Printing will be remembered as a 'lame duck' expensive gimmick peeps will be hard-pressed to remember 5 years from now!