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Perspective: The Role for 3D Printing in the Manufacturing Supply Chain

Perspective: The Role for 3D Printing in the Manufacturing Supply Chain

This IDC Manufacturing Insights Perspective looks at the role for 3D printing in the manufacturing supply chain, in the present, here and now, as well as what we might expect to see in the future.

Currently, 3D printing (aka rapid prototyping or, increasingly, additive manufacturing) is the quintessential emerging technology: it has been expensive, inflexible, and of narrow use. Yet things are clearly changing, and while manufacturing may not be the most aggressive industry of early adopters of 3D printing (one 3D printer manufacturer we spoke with sells far more printers to schools than any other customer type), the number of companies reporting that they are using the technology is growing rapidly. In a recent IDC Manufacturing Insights survey, we asked 330 respondents about their use of 3D printing; and while over half of respondents do not use 3D printing for manufacturing today, the glass is closing on being half full. 27% of respondents (135 companies from the survey) are using the technology today, with 14% of respondents planning to use the technology, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Please Note: Extended description available upon request.


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Figure: Use of 3D Printing for Manufacturing
Figure: Specific Use of 3D Printing for Manufacturing

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