Feb 13, 2016 | By Alec

Critics of the 3D printing industry often say that the common consumer will never adopt the technology at a large scale, but a new study by Dutch IT specialist group EMC Federatie argues otherwise. At the Digital Transformation Conference, held earlier this week in Utrecht, the Netherlands, they presented the results of a study on the extent to which Dutch society is adopting next-generation technologies. Dutch consumers are ready for the technical revolution, they argue, and will adopt new technologies at a high rate. This is also the case for 3D printing, with consumers themselves expecting that 3D printer sales will increase significantly over the coming years.

According to EMC’s Dutch CTO Hans Timmerman, the Netherlands is home to an information generation that lives and thinks completely digitally. In their study, they sought to find out just how aware consumers are of their new digital ecosystem. They questioned 1500 Dutch consumers about their expectations of the future and various technological developments, such as self-driving cars and in-home production. In a nutshell, the study argued that a large number of consumers are expecting a relatively speedy adoption of digital technologies. 40 percent expects that self-driving cars will hit the roads within ten years, while that same number expects that landlines will disappear within that same period, while programming will be a primary school curriculum within just five years.

As for 3D printers, it seems that Dutch consumers are quite familiar with the idea already. Over 30 percent of interviewed consumers therefore expects that 3D printers will become commonplace within the next five years, and will even begin to out-sell 2D printers. While that probably won’t happen quickly, it does say a lot about where the technology stands in the eyes of private consumers. For Timerman, it even raises interesting questions about consumption. Should the number of 3D printers in private hands increase at a large place, this will interrupt known manufacturing models. What do governments need to tax when people produce their own products and generate their own energy, Timmerman wonders.

Most of all, the study shows that people are very optimistic, but don’t really understand technologies or their adoption rates, Timmerman says. For instance, programming is already entering curriculums of high schools, packed into other programs and out of sight of parents. At the same time, half of Dutch consumers believed that their e-mail was sent via foreign servers. Fortunately, at least 70 percent knew the meaning of ‘encryption’.

So what does this mean for the 3D printing industry? According to Timmerman, the consumer has been ready for the technological revolution and for new paradigm-shifting products for a while. While numerous companies, such as 3D Systems, are shifting their attention away from the private consumer, companies should stop making up excuses and see private consumers as a legitimate market. “Digital Transformation is something that the business world can’t ignore any longer. Every organization will continue the digitizing trend in order to continue to play a role in the world where real-time interaction with customers is the rule, rather than the exception, rather than the rule. The consumer, especially in the Netherlands, is already quite far in the digital transformation process.” The results of the full study can be found here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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