AXA: Despite Skepticism, 3D Printing Will Be Adopted by Small Businesses in the UK

AXA, a $57 billion insurance company based in France, recently released a survey on the UK’s startup ecosystem and the vision of entrepreneurs. In its report, AXA revealed that many are still skeptical about new technology such as 3D printing and robotics; for example, 83 percent of business owners believe that robotics will not be adopted or implemented in their companies within the next few decades.

In fairness, more than 40 percent of small businesses in the UK are yet to launch and operate their own websites or applications. Nearly half of the country’s startups have struggled to establish online presence and failed to acknowledge the importance of online engagement and marketing. With UK-based startups hesitant towards adopting the most basic form of technology, it didn’t come as a surprise to the AXA team that the companies were skeptical of innovative and futuristic technologies.

However, AXA Business Insurance managing director Darrell Sansom stated that despite the findings of their research, he is convinced that technologies like 3D printing, robotics, AI and driverless cars will be implemented by startups in the upcoming years, particularly because of the radical change in British industry and society.

“Our research shows that there is still some scepticism among business owners about these technologies reaching their salon, building firm or shop floor. We’re convinced that they will: smart homes, artificial intelligence and driverless cars are developing rapidly, and are set to radically change British society. Those who grab the opportunities first could profit enormously over the coming decades,” said Sansom.

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3D printing is utilized in the health care industry to produce bone implants [Image: Reuters/Jason Lee]

While startups with traditional and conventional vision are hesitant towards futuristic technologies, the government of the UK stated in a research paper, written by Phil Reeves and Dinusha Mendis, commissioned by the Intellectual Property Office and overseen by Bournemouth University and its Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, that the applicability of 3D printing technology will drastically change major industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and apparel.

“Outside of the medical and healthcare domain, 3D printing is being used in the production of toys, dolls and avatars, gifts, collectables and personalised keepsakes. The technology is also at an early stage of adoption within the automotive and aerospace sectors along with some applications in the consumer electronics sector for the manufacture of cases and covers used on smart phones, tablets and other portable devices,” the researchers state.

The paper also emphasizes the commercial success of most 3D printer manufacturers that have distributed over 100,000 consumer machines and 3D printers, from startup kits priced at $400 to professional printers that are valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. If consumer oriented commercial hardware, software and tools develop at a consistent rate over the next few years, the UK government predicts that both large-scale industries and small startups will adopt 3D printing technology.

“Consumer orientated software tools will develop significantly in the coming years, through increased awareness by software vendors relating to design and personalisation demands. Along with this the technical skill level of consumers will increase along with an increase in creativity driven through the resurgence of making within the home and community,” the researchers add.

Furthermore, the startups and business owners surveyed and researched by AXA include companies from various industries including automotive, healthcare and finance, among many others. Thus, it is understandable that the majority of the companies may have not found a practical use case of the technology.

Office buildings in the UK

UK office buildings [Image: Veolia]

However, 3D printing is a scalability solution. It enhances and optimizes operations of manufacturers, designers and other basic operators that serve as the basis of most industries. Thus, over time, as small startups seek alternative methods of scaling their operations and expanding their businesses, technologies like 3D printing will be reconsidered.

Large economic and financial leaders such as China and Australia have already begun to see a rapid emergence of 3D printing startups and implementation of the technology. For example, Y Soft, a prominent enterprise-grade services and solutions provider, stated that their offering of 3D printing-based solutions and methods allowed the company to gain significant market share over the Australian market, which the firm has struggled to do over the past few years.

“Y Soft is looking to sustain that growth over the next 12 months by providing enterprise workflow solutions to the local market that organizations need. We are also looking at expanding our sales and consultancy team to support this business goal,” said Y Soft Australia managing director Adam O’Neil.

Discuss in the UK 3D Printing forum at 3DPB.com.