High costs hinder adoption of 3D printing

Paul Snell is managing editor at Supply Management
15 December 2014

High costs are inhibiting the uptake of 3D printing technology, according to a survey of buyers.

The poll of 330 purchasers of the technology by research organisation Gartner found 60 per cent said high acquisition costs had delayed their adoption of the technology

“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.”

He added organisations who wish to experiment without paying the start-up costs should consider partnering with a 3D printing service bureau.

Almost a quarter of respondents cited prototyping as their reason for pursuing the technology. Product development was the next biggest driver, with 16.1 per cent. Cost reduction was the fifth strongest motivation, mentioned by 9.4 per cent.

In addition, buyers were convinced using a 3D printer as part of the supply chain would reduce the cost of processes. Average cost reduction was between 4.1 per cent and 4.3 per cent.

Gartner is confident the technology will take off. It estimates that by 2018, half of manufacturers in the consumer, heavy industry and life sciences sectors will use 3D printing.

"Clearly there is much room for future growth in this market, but vendors need to work on tools and marketing that show how the technology can be applied and drive competitive advantage," added Basiliere.

This week, Royal Mail announced a partnership with iMakr which would enable customers to order a number of items from an online catalogue and then have them printed and delivered by the firm.

"It can be prohibitively expensive for consumers or small businesses to invest in a 3D printer, so we are launching a pilot to gauge interest in 3D printing to sit alongside Royal Mail’s e-commerce and delivery capability,” said Royal Mail chief customer officer Mike Newnham.

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