Start-up costs leave 3D printer investment by the wayside

Gartner says that high start-up costs and acquisition plans are hurting investment in 3D printers.


A new survey reveals that high start-up costs and acquisitions are preventing the enterprise from effectively implementing 3D printing into business strategies.

Gartner surveyed 330 individuals employed by organizations with at least 100 employees that are using -- or planning to use -- 3D printing within their business. Sixty percent of organizations blame high start-up costs for delays in taking advantage of cost-cutting 3D printing technologies, according to the research firm. However, the survey also found that early adopters of the technology are finding "clear benefits in multiple areas."

According to the research, in the second quarter of 2014, prototyping, product innovation and development were the main uses of 3D printing in the corporate realm -- especially within manufacturing. Cost reduction, increased efficiency and improved product development are only some of the reasons for adopting 3D printing -- as shown below.


While those involved in the manufacturing chain generally believe 3D printing technology can cut down the expense of existing processes and speed up development, 53 percent of survey respondents indicated that managers of R&D engineering or manufacturing are the primary decision-makers for adopting 3D printing. The CIO, CTO and other executives also play a role, but are often not those who lead the charge towards adoption.

"3D printing has broad appeal to a wide range of businesses and early adopter consumers, and while the technology is already in use across a wide range of manufacturing verticals from medical to aerospace, costs remain the primary concern for buyers," said Pete Basiliere, research director at Gartner.

"3D printer vendors must work closely with their clients to identify potential applications of the technology that may have been overlooked, and improve the cost-benefit ratios of their products. Organizations that wish to experiment with the technology without incurring start-up costs should consider partnering with a local 3D printing service bureau."

Gartner predicts that the market for 3D printing is moving beyond design and prototypes, and by 2018, almost 50 percent of consumer, heavy industry and life sciences manufacturers will use 3D printing to produce parts for finished products.

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