Manufacturing in motion: first survey on 3D printing community

Written by nuvatsia. Posted in Longitudinal results, Survey Result

3D printing, manufacturing and development

Which year did you use 3D printing / printer the first time?

Survey participants were asked when they used 3D printer / printing services for the first time. Predefined options (years) were listed in a dropdown menu.

The amount of 3D Printers/Printing started rising around 2005-2006 and has been rising ever since. In the histogram below you can see the growth. The numbers for year 2012 seem to be dropping, but that is an artifice created by the polling schedule. This survey was conducted in middle of the year in May and therefore the amount for 2012 seems low.

dyerware.com


Figure 10. Which year did you use 3D printing / printer the first time?

The growth can be partly explained with the rise of RepRap. The first RepRap, “Darwin”, was finished spring 2007 [22].

For what usage do you use 3D printing?

Participants were asked “For what usage do you use 3D printing?” and given 10 predefined options together with a tick-box for ‘other’. Predefined options were: Spare parts to devices, Covers and such for devices, Artistic items, Visual aids, Presentation models (including architectural models), Functional models, Used for pattern / in molds, For research/educational purposes, Direct part production (custom, short run, series production), Furniture and household decoration. The amount of selected items was not restricted.

The results suggests that five most common usages for 3D printed items are:

  1. Functional models (144 times),
  2. Artistic items (140 times),
  3. Spare parts to devices (133 times),
  4. For research/educational purposes (128 times) and
  5. Direct part production (113 times)
dyerware.com


Figure 11. For what usage do you use 3D printing?

If participant selected ‘other’, it was instructed that a short description would be provided. Some of the survey participants (42) selected ‘other’, and provided descriptions containing items and usages such as toys, for fun, (custom) jewellery, repraps (replicating printer), prototyping, reselling, gaming miniatures, tools and medical devices.

Most common 3D printing material

Survey participants were asked “What kind of material do you use (now and in past) in printing?” and again they were given a predefined option set. Options were: Metal (any), Polymer, PLA, Cement, Biomaterial, Silicon, Wood, None, Other.

The amount of selected items was not restricted. It must be noted that the options were a bit vague. Over 60 participants selected the ‘other’ and 59 of these indicated ABS as material. ABS is copolymer and could be included to option ‘Polymer’. In the below pie chart, ‘Polymer’ and ‘ABS’ are presented separately. Furthermore, some of the participants who indicated ABS  in the ‘other’ field, selected also ‘Polymer’, but not all. In other words, those two options intersect in some amount. The amount of ‘ABS’ answers in option ‘other’ has been substracted away.

dyerware.com


Figure 12. What kind of material do you use (now and in past) in printing?

Most commonly used 3D printers

Survey participants were asked “Which printers (which manufacturer) have you used?” and again they were given a predefined option set. Options contained 20 different manufacturers. Three options (Arcam, Blue Printer and Solidoodle) did not get any answers and have been left out of the charts, below. A few manufacturers were selected only by a few participants (1-6 times). Such companies were: Botmill, ExOne, Fortus, Makibot, Printrbot and Solidscape & Envision Tec.  Those were also left out of the chart. Thus, the pie chart below depicts the most commonly used 3D printer manufacturers.

dyerware.com


Figure 13. Which printers (which manufacturer) have you used?

RepRap was the most common printer among the participants. RepRap is also the first printer (of the listed ‘new wave’ printers) that was available (since 2007). The relatively low amount of Makerbots can partly be explained with long market entry time, since Makerbot has been around since early 2009. Some of the printers have just entered or are entering the markets, such as printrbot.

3D printing services

The participants were asked: “Which of the 3D printing services have you used?” Again, question contained predefined options: 3D Creation Lab, 3dprintuk, 3DProParts, Cubify Cloud Print, i.Materialise, Impression-3D, Kraftwurx.com, Ponoko, RedEye, Sculpteo, Shapeways, Solid Concepts, None, Other. If participant selected ‘other’, it was instructed that description would be provided.

dyerware.com


Figure 14. Which of the 3D printing services have you used?

Results suggest that among the participants who have used 3D printing services, Shapeways has taken a major share of customers. Ponoko was second most popular and i.Materialise took the bronze. It is notable, however, that a huge amount of the respondents has not used any 3D printing service.  Several of the available services were not selected at all or only a few times. This result raises interesting questions: Who are those who selected ‘none’ and why their amount is so huge? Are they developers and not interested in or in need of printing services? 

Out of curiosity, a cross tabulation was created between this question and whether the respondent’s work was related to 3D printing or rapid manufacturing or not.

Table 3. Cross tabulation between work relevance and printing service usage.  

Is your work related to 3D printing or rapid manufacturing?
Has used printing services Has NOT used printing services
No 47,2% (67) 58,7% (71)
Yes 27,5% (39) 20,7 %(25)
Yes, but only partly 25,4% (36) 20,7% (25)

Those that do not work with 3d printing or rapid manufacturing seem to use 3D printing services slightly more often than 3D printing professionals. The situation is leveled if the two last lines are calculated together.

The same kind of cross tabulation was created between this question and whether the respondent considered self to be a developer or end-user.

Table 4. Cross tabulation between role in 3D printing development and printing service usage.

Your involvement in 3D printing. Do you consider yourself:
Has used printing services Has NOT used printing services
more like ‘end user’ of 3D printing 64,6% (84) 22,7% (25)
more like developer of 3D printing solutions (not getting paid though) 21,5% (28) 64,5 %(71)
more like paid developer of 3D printing solutions 13,8% (18) 12,7% (14)

The cross tabulation indicates that 3D printing solution developers who do not get paid, are part of the population who are not keen to use 3D printing services.

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