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oneUndoubtedly, the technologies of advanced manufacturing practices like robotics and 3D printing have the world’s attention. What has been in doubt by the general public and some technological naysayers regarding something like 3D printing is what actual — and long-term — validity it has when examining the quite substantial cost for professional manufacturers from the smaller to larger scale.

While the main sector in question being ‘revolutionized’ is manufacturing and there’s certainly a long list of large companies using 3D printing for making what is now a wide array of components, there’s no better way to take the pulse of those individuals invested than by, quite simply, asking what they think about the technology as a whole, and what their plans are for adding it to their own companies.

Headquartered in Michigan, SME’s Advanced Manufacturing Media is dedicated to a large group of manufacturing professionals, and to bringing them — and all of us who are interested — news and information regarding manufacturing. Recently, they compiled information from 618 US manufacturers who answered their 20-question survey. Summarized in the Advanced Manufacturing Opportunities Report, information and responses shed enlightening and relevant information regarding statistics on companies moving (or not doing so) into adding technology like robotics, 3D printing, advanced software, and much more to their business practices.

twoCompanies that were positive regarding adding the use of advanced manufacturing were fairly notable, with 54% of respondents planning to add $1 million in advanced manufacturing to their businesses within two years, while predictable reasons were cited for companies not moving into more advanced manufacturing techniques and technologies, such as:

  • Cost
  • Lack of technical training and expertise
  • Concern or lack of sufficient return on investment
  • Perception that it doesn’t fit with business model or strategy

Reasons that spurred companies on to add advanced manufacturing were not surprising either, with the number one motivation being that of the good old competitive spirit. Of the respondents, 49% of companies that are viewed as smaller, with fewer than 50 employees, planned to contribute $100-299K to advanced manufacturing, while 24% of large manufacturers, with 500 to 2,500 employees or more, planned to spend $5 million or more in the next two years.

Companies were motivated not only by concerns about competition but also:IV-AA424_IVCOVE_G_20130607155618

  • Growth
  • Efficiency
  • Responding to customers’ needs and wants
  • Quality
  • Learning and stimulation through innovation

Regarding implementation of innovation due to customer requests and needs, 78% of companies listed that as ‘very important’ or ‘important,’ with process improvement coming in very close behind. At the bottom of that list of importance was global engagement, with only 39% of manufacturers viewing that as a point of major importance.

While there is obviously a great consciousness regarding the need for advanced manufacturing practices like 3D printing and more, only 35% of manufacturers reported an assessment of significant performance in implementing the technology, while:

  • 37% report better product quality
  • 33% report better speed
  • 31% report better cost in production
  • 30% report better ‘complexity and performance’ in products

Items listed at the top of the list, recommended by manufacturers for valuable additions to business were advanced manufacturing equipment at 69%, advanced software at 52%, advanced robotics at 49%, and 3D printing at 42%.

Manufacturing professionals surveyed consisted of executives, engineers, and those in supervisory capacities. These professionals work in sectors such as fabricated metals, aerospace, automotive, medical, construction, and oil and gas.

Over 100,000 professionals subscribe to Advanced Manufacturing Media, which encompasses a wide variety of publications from an iTunes app to a monthly magazine.

Do you find the statistics from this report to be surprising? Are you involved in manufacturing, and if so, what are your thoughts on the importance of implementing advanced manufacturing techniques? Tell us your thoughts in the SME Advanced Manufacturing Opportunities Report forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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