3D printing: Benefits, trends, enterprise applications

This archived TechRepublic Premium report, originally published in August 2014, is available for free to registered TechRepublic members. For all the latest research reports, 100+ ready-made policies, IT job descriptions, and more, check out TechRepublic Premium.

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Relatively few companies have deployed 3D printers at present, but a significant number of businesses are evaluating them.
  • Companies are largely using 3D printers for testing and research/development prototyping. Engineering/ design and education are also strong areas attracting 3D printing use.
  • “No business need” tops the list of reasons companies have rejected 3D printers. Some explicitly said they don’t perform manufacturing or engineering work. However, legal/ethical/moral concerns aren’t driving people away, nor is 3D printing considered too expensive or complex to adopt.
  • While almost a third of respondents not using 3D printers said nothing would convince them to rethink their decision, the ability to create cheaper goods, to create goods more rapidly, or to make products that don’t exist elsewhere were listed as strong temptations by others—and this is matched by 3D printing benefits reported by organizations both evaluating and using them.
  • 3D printing budgets are small (generally less than $15,000 per year), but holding steady or increasing among businesses evaluating and using these devices.
  • Makerbot leads the pack among 3D printing manufacturers for companies using and evaluating the possibilities, but there are a great many models in use so the pool is quite wide.
  • A strong majority of respondents anticipate that 3D printing will have a positive impact on their industries, citing possibilities such as better testing/production abilities, the opportunity to independently manufacture items rather than buying them elsewhere, and the creation of jobs/better sales. However, there was also concern about customers being able to create items that their businesses currently sell, as well as some threat of illegal items/copyright risks.

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