Marforged issued the results of a survey examining public feelings around use of 3D printing for manufacturing.
Specifically, questions revolved around the concept of onshoring, where manufacturing is relocated back from offshore locations, and the notion of using 3D printing for producing parts on demand.
These are both key questions for the industry. If, for example, there is a significant trend towards onshoring, then we would no doubt see a significant increase in sales of industrial 3D printers to Western manufacturers. This would be greater than those sold for prototyping purposes, as end-use parts manufacturing has much higher capacity.
The survey asked Americans their thoughts on these issues, and according to the demographics in the report they hit a wide range of individuals.
The Markforged survey indicates that 68% of respondents believe onshoring is a critical factor in easing supply chain issues, while 10% disagree, and a non-negligible 22% remain undecided.
These figures suggest a growing sentiment towards localizing production to prevent supply chain disruptions, indicating the industry may witness a shift towards onshoring in the coming years.
However, with the substantial percentage of undecided respondents, it’s clear that there is a need for more education and dialogue about the role of onshoring for supply chain resilience.
According to the survey, 43% of respondents perceive 3D printing as a potential long-term solution to supply chain issues, while 18% remain skeptical. A significant 39% remain unsure, illustrating a possible lack of awareness or understanding about the benefits and capabilities of 3D printing technology.
It’s evident that 3D printing manufacturers and industry leaders need to do more to communicate the technology’s value proposition, highlighting how it can provide a stable and flexible solution to supply chain disruptions. However, it’s also possible that current limitations in 3D print technology could be blocking some solutions.
An impressive 77% of respondents acknowledge the value of 3D printing in easing supply chain issues through on-demand production. This clearly underscores a growing recognition of the immediate, practical benefits of 3D printing. However, with 23% of respondents not considering 3D printing valuable in this context, it’s crucial for the industry to continue advocating and demonstrating the merits of the technology, and increasing the capabilities of the technology.
Over half of the respondents, around 56%, believe that governments and businesses should invest more in 3D printing technology to address supply chain issues. This could serve as a significant call to action for decision-makers, emphasizing the potential of increased investments in 3D printing technology to help future-proof supply chains.
An interesting finding from the survey is that only 24% of respondents believe the U.S. has done enough to onshore production to ease future supply chain issues. This suggests a possible disconnect between public perception and policy-making, hinting at a need for more transparent communication regarding the steps taken to bolster onshore production.
The fact that 52% of respondents have experienced delays in online product deliveries over the past six months serves as a clear indicator of continuing supply chain issues that first surfaced during the pandemic. This opens the possibility of implementing innovative solutions with 3D printing to mitigate some of these issues.
The survey reveals that 53% of respondents have faced difficulty finding specific products, highlighting the extent to which supply chain issues have permeated consumer experiences. This reiterates the need for novel solutions to these challenges, especially the ability to 3D print parts and products on demand where possible.
Only 29% of respondents are aware that 3D printing technology is being used to address supply chain issues. This awareness gap underscores the need for increased public education about 3D printing, on demand production and digital inventory concepts and how they can assist with supply chain challenges.
While the survey did not specifically receive responses from manufacturers, and instead focused on the general public, it’s clear there are many aspects of 3D printing that are still not well understood. Digital inventory and on demand production are key capabilities of the technology that will certainly power future solutions, yet few seem to know of them.
It’s possible sentiment may change as supply chains ease, so this could be the moment when manufacturers and governments take time to promote 3D print solutions when everyone’s looking for answers.