New research by consultants A. T. Kearney, commissioned by printer manufacturer HP Inc, found that the UK is the 5th best placed globally (behind the UK, Germany, Korea and Japan) to adopt 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Within Europe, Britain came in second behind Germany, but ahead of countries such as Sweden (8th), France (9th) and Italy (12th).
The country is also rapidly expanding its 3D printing capability, being the 3rd fastest nation accelerating its domestic 3D printing market, behind South Korea and Italy. These positive statistics belie the real situation on the ground in the UK, where it is still early adopters and niche players making the running.
The fact that the UK is so well positioned can only be explained by the fact that in other European countries, except for Germany, the adoption of these technologies by mainstream businesses is even less mature than in the UK.
This issue of barriers to adoption in the UK dominated a meeting on Monday June 4th of industry experts and academics arranged by the All Party Manufacturing Group at the House of Commons, in association with HP, and chaired by Barry Sheerman, MP for Huddersfield. The barriers mentioned include: lack of skills and specialist training, lack of understanding by government, an overly cautious investment attitude and confusion about ROI among business owners, and a splintered business support structure.
Alex Monino, HP’s global VP for 3D Printing Strategy and Business Management said that the issue of government incentives, together with global agreement on quality and materials standards, is vital to giving the technology the stability it needs to bridge what he called “the chasm” between the initial uptake by early adopters and mainstream adoption.
It was noted with some dismay that 3D occupied only a few short paragraphs in the lengthy Made Smarter Review that forms manufacturing’s contribution to the government’s industrial strategy. Barry Sheerman vowed he would make the case in Parliament and to ministers for the technology to receive the attention it needs.