Results from 3D Printing survey 2013

Written by Jarkko Moilanen. Posted in Longitudinal results, News, Survey Result

by Jarkko Moilanen & Tere Vadén

dizingofIntroduction & summary

This is the second in a series of longitudinal surveys on the 3D printing community. The results of the first survey in 2012 can be found on this site and in a First Monday article. Since the previous survey, several interesting developments have taken place in the 3D printing environment, including but not limited to:

3D printing technology is advancing, and at the same time there are important developments in terms of making both the software and the hardware easier to use. The visibility of 3D printing in media has been high throughout the year. Looking forward, these trends can be expected to continue. One expected game changer is the expiration of 3D related patents 2014.

In view of the previous results, we find that the most interesting trends in the 2013 survey are:

  1. increase in the number of different models of 3D printers used
  2. increase in the number of different 3D printing services used
  3. growing economical interests: 3D Printer manufacturing market polarization, new manufacturer startups and kickstarter driven 3D printers
  4. possible signs of maturing ecosystem and that 3D printing might be on the verge of spreading outside geek communities dispite the lacks in hardware and software.

Background of the survey

In this longitudinal survey, we approach 3d printing as an example of the open source inspired landscape of peer production. The aim of the survey is to gain a view into the development of the demographics of the 3D printing community, and the changing patterns of production, keeping especially in mind the expectations that 3D printing is a part of an emerging “revolution in manufacturing”.  Research around 3D printing as an example of commons-based peer production is still minimal (but see Troxler , Moilanen & Vadén). The approach in the current research has concentrated in defining the overall change and analysing most prominent features. Statistical studies of 3D Printing community are still missing. This research aims towards that direction by continuing the longitudinal series started 2012.

Research settings and methods

The research is built on surveys. Surveys will be conducted annually, forming a longitudinal data base about 3D printing community, members of it, and features of the community. We have included both 1) people using 3D printers and people who 2) develop 3D printers and related software.

The former group refers to people who print objects with 3D printers but have no interest or skills to make any development either on software or hardware. This group contains also people who use 3D printing services like Shapeways and Ponoko. Shapeways and similar services also represent a kind of commons-based peer production since the models and ‘things’ sold in webshops are made by a large population of people who participate (at least mostly) voluntarily. They create the content. The same situation can be found in the other group too. The second group (technology developers) contains those who make contributions, software or hardware, to 3D printing communities. Of course, the above groups are only a subset of people involved in 3D printing. Somewhere in between are people who buy 3D printers, and assemble and use the machines with the help of the community. They are commonly referred as 3) early adopters.

Figure 1. Target audiences and approach channels
Figure 1. Target audiences and approach channels

The survey in 2013 was directed to all three groups (in Fig. 1 above). Developers were approached through developing mailing lists and hackerspaces discussion list. End users were approached with the help of a few 3D printing services and twitter. Shapeways, Ponoko, i.Materialise, Adafruit and Fabbaloo among others were asked to promote this survey and they all blogged and tweeted about it [imaterialise, shapeways, ponoko, fabbaloo, adafruit]. Early adopters were assumed to populate RepRap users mailing list and follow 3D printing related twitter feeds and blogs. Using twitter and getting publicity from 3D printing service providers most likely lead to some amount of ‘false respondents’ (the most extravagant answers were filtered out).

Time to take a look at the results.

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Jarkko Moilanen

Experienced community builder in realms of hackerspaces and MeeGo networks, several successful project management positions in software development and system design. http://fi.linkedin.com/in/jarkkomoilanen

Comments (15)

  • V

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    This is twaddle, the survey was not sent to any big name providers (Red Eye, Solid Concepts, QuickParts). It was literally sent directly to people who use Shapeways, imaterialise etc. already in some capacity. I can think of very few less skewed statistics than a survey sent only to Twitter Followers. Obviously, if they’re already following those companies on Twitter AND actually see their Tweets in their news feed than there is a significant amount of interest or investment already in place. The rest of us will stick to Wohlers, thank you.

    Reply

  • Jarkko Moilanen

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    Twitter was _one_ media used. In addition to twitter, we used facebook groups, developer mailing lists, direct email invitations to various compnaies and organisations and blog post. Our primary survey audience was not the people who started using 3D printing in the 80′s, but those who engaged to 3D printing development and usage as part of the second wave, open source hardware wave started by RepRap project. Therefore, it’s justified to expect that targeted audience uses twitter and other social media and can be reached by using the social media. It is a fact that a few newly established 3D printing related companies engaged to spreading the invitation. Nothing prevented other more established companies (and alike) to do the same. Furthermore, invitations to participate was sent as email to various organisations, some of you listed too, but we gained no response or interest.

    Dispite the lacks in this research, it indisputably offers insights to section of 3D printing community, namely those who were mentioned above. Although, I partially agree with you that the research is not flawless, I do not consider it useless. Dispite the differences in opinions, I thank you for the feedback. We’ll try to improve our research methodology in the future so that it would be more accurate and insightful.

    Reply

  • Jarkko Moilanen

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  • Marco Valenzuela

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    BS This is Shapeways marketing not a real survey. Plus they have altered the original post of this article and removed Kraftwurx.com, 3dprintUK and others from the pie diagrams. The reality is Shapeways and other new companies don’t hold a candle to the market share that massive RP and prototyping companies like Redeye have been in for over 5 years.

    Reply

    • Jarkko Moilanen

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      Your claim is not true. For example http://www.shapeways.com/blog/archives/2262-Thanks-for-the-3D-Printing-Love!-Shapeways-Voted-the-1-Service.html shows Kraftwurx.com. Then again, we’re not responsible for what shapeways or others do and publish.

      Do you have something to support (open access link to research) your claims regarding “market share that massive RP and prototyping companies like Redeye have been in for over 5 years.”? I would be most interested. Perhaps some study from Kraftwurx.com with which you are affiliated.

      Reply

      • Marco Valenzuela

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        You think Shapeways truly has a larger portion of the pie than RedEye, Solid Concepts and others? Providers of prototypes and materials to companies like Sony, HP, Microsoft, Apple, Lockheed Martin, BASF, Freescale, and Samsung? Most 3d print artists are aware Shapways services individual artists, experimenters, and trinket makers with inferior materials and for tiny orders less than a few hundred dollars at most. There is no real comparison. Defend this “survey” all you want, the truth is most 3d print artists never heard of it before this was published and this far in contrast it is easy to see the bias. And yes I am the Community Manager for Kraftwurx.com because I am 3d print artist with a accurate perspective on the current market. In other words I know what I talking about.

        Reply

        • Jarkko Moilanen

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          You might be right but I still don’t see any links to facts that prove your claims true. Provide the evidence or just simply let go. Repeating same claims does not make them more real. One option is that you could look at the other results in this research and find something interesting instead of staring one pie chart.

          Reply

  • Lina

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    hello,
    im doing my dissertation topic on 3d printing and its viability in the manufacturing industry, this survey is very interesting, can i ask who sent it out ?

    Reply

    • Jarkko Moilanen

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      The survey was sent out my name beneath it, but it’s constructed by Tere Vadén and me. Of course we rode under the theme of Statistical Studies of Peer Production.

      Reply

  • Josh

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    Is there a printer friendly version of this survey somewhere?

    Reply

  • CornGolem

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    Hey, where can I download the data ? can’t see any mention of it.

    Reply

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