Consumers

Survey: 3D printing not dead, but consumers are confused

As the Christmas shopping season begins to warm up, online electrical retailer reichelt elektronik has commissioned a survey of 1,000 UK consumers to better understand the level of demand for desktop 3D printers.

In the results, only 17% of people said they would consider buying a desktop 3D printer, and only 6% claimed to already own a system.

Rather than the old “3D printing is dead” sentiment, the consensus of responses to this study seem to suggest that most of the participants remain confused about the purpose of 3D printers, and how exactly they would be useful in the home.

While some of the questions asked are contentious (we doubt the world will ever be fully ready for extruded cheese spread) others, i.e. would you ever buy 3D printed products made by a 3D printing company?, do glean some scraps of information that could be useful to the industry.

Infographic of the results of reichelt elektronik's poll on UK consumers and 3D printing. Image via OnePoll
Infographic of the results of reichelt elektronik’s poll on UK consumers and 3D printing. Image via OnePoll

A survey by a 3D printer reseller

A few facts on the reichelt survey. As an electronics reseller, reichelt is responsible for the sale of a variety of desktop 3D printers ranging in price from £290 (the velleman K8200 FFF 3D printer) to £6,189 (a Makerbot Replicator Z18). The company also sells food 3D printers, spare parts for the machines, 3D scanners, and materials. And so, understandably, many of the answers given below might be considered with a heavy pinch of salt.

The company’s survey of UK consumer perspective of 3D printers was commissioned to OnePoll, a market research company headquartered in London.

OnePoll’s online panel of UK consumers is split 64% female to 36% male, with the majority of users falling either in the 18-24 age group (26%) or in 25 -34 (27%). Regionally, 85% of the panel lives in England, with 8% in Scotland, 5% in Wales and the remaining 2% from Northern Ireland.

The 3D printing poll was taken by reichelt’s specified panel selection in September 2018. The largest proportion of responses were from the age group 55 and above, as show in the summary table below. No data is available about the gender, regional distribution or occupation/background of people who responded to the poll.

How old are you..? % Responses
18-24 10.40% 104
25-34 17.20% 172
35-44 16.00% 160
45-54 18.20% 182
55+ 38.20% 382

Would you buy a 3D printer?

Unpacking the statement that “17% of people said they would consider buying a desktop 3D printer” the strongest response for this question was “Not sure.”

Would you ever buy a 3D printer for home use?

18-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55+
Yes 16.30% 19.73% 22.15% 20.11% 12.37%
No 40.22% 42.18% 36.91% 29.89% 31.58%
Not sure 43.48% 38.10% 40.94% 50% 56.05%

The same can be said for the question For which purpose can you imagine having products 3D printed by a supplier?  that, confusingly, allows more than one answer alongside “N/a – No particular purpose.”

For which purpose can you imagine having products 3D printed by a supplier? 

Choice %
Designing your own jewellery or accessories 13.09%
Making model and toy spare parts 23.11%
Repairing or replacing household items or small parts 37.15%
Decorating/interior design (e.g. vases or ornaments) 20.28%
Technical components in the hobby sector (e.g. electronics, computers, automobiles etc.) 25.47%
Cooking and baking (e.g. marzipan figurines or savoury ingredients) 11.32%
Other purpose 3.89%
N/a – No particular purpose 41.04%

Additionally, almost half the respondents said “I don’t know” when asked, as phrased in the survey “Would you ever buy 3D printed products made by a 3D printing company?” Here “3D printing company” is not defined.

Choice %
Yes – I’ve done this 3.30%
Yes – I would do this 32.30%
No – I wouldn’t do this 15.20%
I don’t know 49.20%

What is 3D printing used for? And how much should you spend?

Such indefinite answers lead us to believe that the response group for this survey had little information about 3D printers and their applications. Interestingly enough, when asked to pinpoint a reason for purchasing a 3D printer for the home the top answer from respondents was to make spare parts and repairs. The second most popular answer to this question was “technical components in the hobby sector” for example, parts used in  electronics, computers, automobiles.

What would / what did make you buy a 3D printer for?

Choice %
Designing your own jewellery or accessories 23.96%
Making model and toy spare parts 31.34%
Repairing or replacing household items or small parts 58.06%
Decorating/interior design (e.g. vases or ornaments) 36.41%
Technical components in the hobby sector (e.g. electronics, computers, automobiles etc.) 48.39%
Cooking and baking (e.g. marzipan figurines or savoury ingredients) 22.12%
Other reason 8.29%
No particular reason/ I don’t know 6.91%

Another thing UK consumers seemed most certain about in this poll was the money they’d be willing to spend on a household 3D printer. The £200 – £500 price range was the most common answer, the typical range of other electronic gadgets like a new games console or a remote-control drone with acceptable battery life.

How much money would you be willing to spend/ did you spend on a 3D printer for use at home? (please select answer in £)

Choice %
0-199 11.52%
200-500 29.03%
501-800 11.98%
801-1000 21.20%
1001-1500 9.22%
1501-2000 3.69%
2001-2500 1.84%
2501+ 0.46%
I don’t know 11.06%

Overall, there simply aren’t enough specifics in this study to draw any concrete conclusions about UK consumer sentiments on 3D printing. A larger sample group is needed for real insight into such behavior, especially considering the percentage of respondents with a 3D printer at home (6%) exceeded the expected average.

As other research shows, household 3D printing does have the potential to save consumers money when regularly applied to replace toys and games or odds and ends around the home. However, companies that previously relied on the consumer market have now moved on in favor of B2B manufacturing.

In terms of the reichelt poll, it is also worth noting that the same questions were asked a consumer group in Germany. According to these figures, 51% of German consumers would consider buying a 3D printer. Still, 12% would be willing to try 3D printed cheese spread (Seriously, is this necessary?)

For the German readers out there: Infographic of the results of reichelt elektronik's poll on German consumers and 3D printing. Image via OnePoll
For the German readers out there: Infographic of the results of reichelt elektronik’s poll on German consumers and 3D printing. Image via OnePoll

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Featured image shows to 3D, or not to 3D? That is the question. 3D printed skull and implants by Renishaw. Photo by Beau Jackson

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