Ultimaker Study Suggests COVID-19 Increases 3D Printing Adoption Worldwide – 3DPrint.com
Ultimaker has released its 3D Printing Sentiment Index (3DPSI) for 2021, which shows that awareness and adoption of 3D printing have increased in 2020 and that companies are using it in a more integrated way. While the study does not examine the reasons for these developments, Ultimaker has anecdotally linked it to the challenges posed by COVID-19 and a disrupted global supply chain.
The 3DPSI covers three broad categories: mood, awareness and acceptance. Awareness covers how much people know about 3D printing, sentiment covers whether people believe that 3D printing is or will be useful, and acceptance covers how much people are already using it in their workplaces.
This year’s 3DPSI was carried out online by the independent research company Savanta in December 2020. It surveyed 2,525 professionals from various fields such as healthcare, manufacturing, architecture, and education. These professionals came from twelve “key markets” around the world: the US, Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. Both South Korea and Australia were new this year.
Overall, awareness of 3D printing rose to 71%. Of people who were aware of 3D printing, 65% believed it would become a widespread technology in their industry over the next five years, up 7% from the last index. Finally, 27% of this segment said 3D printing was an investment priority for their company, up another 7%.
The 3DPSI also deals with “readiness for adoption” or how well 3D printing is embedded in a company. In the terminology of the study, Champion Stage means that there is a small team that uses 3D printing, Competence Center Stage means that the implementation and knowledge of 3D printing is well distributed overall, and Fully Embedded Stage sometimes means one good implemented application even in the whole store. According to the study, the number of people whose companies were in the competence center phase increased by 3% and the number of people in the fully embedded phase increased by 2%.
In their press release, Ultimaker suggested that this increase in adoption was due in part to COVID-19.
“Manufacturers around the world had to adapt quickly when the pandemic shifted their supply chains,” said Jürgen von Hollen, CEO of Ultimaker. “From prototyping innovations to printing your own tools to keep machines running, those with an open mind have adapted most effectively.”
While the 3DPSI does not actually collect any information on why adoption or awareness may have risen, its findings agree with popular news about 3D printing, which is filling gaps in the supply chain for everything from medical devices to filtering devices to shoes. Significantly, the 3DPSI found that the use of 3D printing to manufacture end-use parts increased 5% in 2020, suggesting that companies may have used printing to fill gaps in the supply chain. In comparison, the use of 3D printing in prototyping decreased by as much as 8%.
The study found significant barriers to the spread of 3D printing. Operational skills (67%), employee knowledge (65%), and difficulty building a solid business model for printing (40%) limited respondents’ use of printing at work. Print speed and accuracy remain a major concern under the corporate umbrella.
Still, Ultimaker is optimistic about the results of the study.
“The possibilities of 3D printing are really endless. So it’s exciting to see the amazing solutions designers and engineers come up with, ”said von Hollen. “We are very proud that Ultimaker is helping companies to ensure continuity through the use of 3D printing despite adverse circumstances.”