Key UK 3D Printing Survey

The UK’s Design Museum recently conducted a survey with Ipsos MORI regarding the future of manufacturing, and yielded some interesting results for public awareness, perception and opinion of 3D printing. Perhaps surprisingly, given the extent of the coverage of the technology over the past year in the mass media, a huge 71% say that they have heard little or nothing about 3D printing.

The poll interviewed 994 people, providing a sample of the UK’s attitudes towards this emerging disruptive technology. Some of the data is unsurprising, given how radical the technology is regarding behaviour change for the individual and the mass media sensationalism regarding that gun.

Currently, whilst 3D printing at home remains confined to small ABS and PLA based plastic items via FFF / FDM in the knowledge base of most reporters, let alone audience: I.e. Omitting the range of materials now viable and available for home 3D printing that include wood, brick, high flexible plastic, water soluble plastic, nylon, it may be less surprising that 1 in 5 who say they know the technology currently wish to own a home 3D printer. Or those who are not familiar, that figure drops to just 6%.

I have seen two articles authored on this subject today. They place onus on the 6%. This, positively, shows the publications are not to be prone to hype (pro 3DP hype at least anyway), as we’d of course anticipate that 3D printing publications would go with the 20% figure to induce a wisdom-of-the-crowd instinct towards a fashion to want the technology.

I’m going to be different and look at the stats the opposite way: 20% want to own. The logic behind this is simple: We wouldn’t count the opinions of those who do not know what a car is on whether they would like to own one, especially when cars have just started

richrap multi color british printSome of those key statistics and data outcomes from the survey, with link to follow.

71% of people say they know very little or nothing about 3D printers while one in five (19%) say they know at least a fair amount.

Is 3D printing the future of UK manufacturing – or just a fad?

  • Only 6% of people say they are interested in owning a 3D printer, though this rose to 20% among those who know a great deal or a fair.
  • Amount about 3D printers. This suggests that demand will rise if people become familiar with 3D printers and perhaps understand better how this emerging technology can be useful for them.
  • Men are twice as likely as women to want a 3D printer (8% vs. 4%), and those aged 15-34 (9%) are more keen than those aged 65 and over (1%).
  • Southerners are most interested (10%) in owning a 3D printer – but curiously Londoners were no different from the rest of the country (4%).

Dispose of or repair?

  • 3 out of 4 of us (75%) agree that people throw away too many things rather than get them repaired – 40% ‘strongly agree’. The most likely to support a make do and mend approach are those aged 35 to 54, (81%), higher social grade AB (82%) and those with no access to internet (81%).
  • A lower proportion of younger people aged 15-34 (64%) agree that we throw away too many things.
  • Londoners (67%) are less likely to acknowledge we throw away too many objects rather than get them fixed – compared with 78% in the North and South (excluding London).

The future is being able to make everyday objects and spare parts for machines at home – even guns and knives:

  • The over 65s are especially likely to be concerned about the prospect of guns and knives being printed at home (40%).
  • Around a third (35%) of people agree that it is a good thing people will be able to make everyday objects and spare parts at home – but an equal number (32%) are also concerned about people being able to make guns or knives at home.
  • Men are more likely than women to think that manufacturing at home is a good thing (43% vs. 28%)
  • 15-34 year olds are more positive (43%) about manufacturing objects from home, and this declines with age (22% among those aged 65+). The image of the old man tinkering in the shed could be a thing of the past as the YouTube generation gets interested in high tech manufacture from home.
  • There’s a clear regional divide. 40% in London and the South agree making everyday objects at home is a good thing, compared with around three in ten across the Midlands (31%), the North (34%) and Scotland (32%).


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