The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in 3D printing, and according to recent research from HP and A.T. Kearney, the UK has one of the top five 3D printing sectors worldwide, placing Britain 5th overall for readiness to adopt 3D printing technology. The UK is also among the world’s three fastest-growing 3D printing markets.


However, George Brasher, HP’s managing director for the UK & Ireland, believes the UK government must focus its efforts in three crucial areas – education, adoption and incentives – if the sector is to stay ahead. 


“The UK is at a critical juncture in these early days of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We are well placed to lead the world in 3D printing, but there is no room for complacency when preparing the workforce for next-generation manufacturing,” he says.


3D printing is one of the powerful technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and is poised to transform the $12-trillion global manufacturing industry. It promises to democratise industrial production, dramatically reducing costs and production cycles.


And the UK’s standing looks set to improve further, as the country rapidly expands its 3D printing capability. Britain is the world's 3rd fastest nation accelerating its domestic 3D printing market, according to the research. Only South Korea (1st) and Italy (2nd) are progressing more quickly. 


The country readiness rankings are based on a detailed analysis of six key dimensions of readiness for 3D printing, including: Adoption, Demand, Trade, People, Governance and Technology.


Encouragingly, the UK ranks 2nd globally for the necessary trade conditions to boost 3D printing adoption, and 3rd for both technological readiness and for its governance climate. But it lies outside the global top ten for the people dimension (11th), due in part to a lack of digital manufacturing skills.


The study found that the UK is 5th best placed globally to adopt 3D printing and digitise manufacturing – behind the US, Germany, Korea and Japan (in rank order). Within Europe, Britain came in second – behind only Germany (placed 2nd globally), and ahead of Sweden (8th), France (9th), and Italy (12th).