The high cost of buying and deploying 3D printers is discouraging organisations from spending in this emerging market, Gartner has confirmed.
Sixty per cent of 330 organisations around the world interviewed by the research giant cited high start-up costs as an obstacle to implementing their 3D print strategies.
That is despite potential "clear benefits in multiple areas" for early adopters, according to Gartner research director Pete Basiliere.
"Costs remain the primary concern for buyers," he said.
Prices for additive-manufacturing technologies have fallen significantly since the 1980s, sparking interest across a much broader market under the "3D print" moniker.
Basiliere said vendors must therefore work out how to help customers benefit more from their products – or further reduce the cost. Perhaps they could help customers identify how the technology can best be used.
3D printing has "broad appeal" to many businesses and verticals, such as healthcare and aerospace, he noted.
"Organisations that wish to experiment with the technology without incurring start-up costs should consider partnering with a local 3D printing service bureau," suggested Basiliere.
Gartner surveyed individuals at 330 organisations that have at least 100 staff and are either already using or plan to use 3D printing technology.
Among the organisations surveyed, 3D printers were seen as useful mainly for product innovation and development (27.2 per cent) and prototyping (24.5 per cent).
Many respondents also cited 3D print as a way to reduce cost.
"The market is emerging from its nascent stage as organisations move beyond design and prototyping applications of 3D printing towards creating short-run production quantities of finished products," Basiliere said.
"Based on these results and the answers to other survey questions, we predict that by 2018 almost 50 per cent of consumer, heavy industry and life sciences manufacturers will use 3D printing to produce parts for the items they consume, sell or service."
Rival researcher Canalys said earlier this year that the worldwide market for 3D printers reached $2.5bn (£1.60bn) in 2013; it predicts an expansion to $16.2bn by 2018 – comparing with Gartner's more conservative $13.8bn forecast.
Current retail prices per unit range from a couple of hundred to a few thousand pounds.
Vendor's announcements include AI-powered Microsoft Office, a move away from password verification and an alliance with Adobe and SAP
Vendor claims hackers are hijacking machines to mine for cryptocurrency
Nearly half of SMBs are planning to invest in digital workflows to reduce their paper-based processes by 2025, according to Quocirca
The charter has pulled together the biggest names in tech in an unprecedented attempt to address the tech industry's lack of diversity. Tom Wright asks how it plans to do it