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Additive Manufacturing and Barriers to Business Growth


Entrepreneurs and small businesses drive innovation and job growth. Yet these same firms struggle to adopt additive manufacturing. Why is this the case? In a recent report, the Office of Advocacy in the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) identified 11 barriers based on surveys and interviews. The SBA also proposes federal policies to help startups and smaller companies harness the power of 3D printing.
The SBA’s 55-page report spans multiple sections, but most of the study describes what authors Winslow Sargeant and Mark Harrison call “barriers, best practices, and big ideas.” Money isn’t the solution to all of an entrepreneur’s challenges, but the amount of student debt held by graduating students prevents many from pursuing new business opportunities. For recent graduates who do launch start-ups, lack of access to capital impedes growth while high equipment costs can block the implementation of new technologies.
Entrepreneurs and small businesses face other technology-related challenges, too. As the SBA report explains, technology innovations often result in regulatory uncertainty and legal challenges. This is especially difficult for small, innovative companies that already struggle to commercialize products. In general, the report’s authors add, technology diffusion and adoption is more difficult for small businesses.
The SBA’s Sargeant and Harrison also report that innovators want more government funding and support for research and development (R&D). Small companies also need more access to business opportunities, especially as they continue to face challenges exporting their products and services. Entrepreneurs and small businesses need more information about market needs and product R&D, too.
Finally, the report explains, America’s shortage of engineering and production talent limits business growth. Overcoming these barriers is a bigger problem than low adoption rates for additive manufacturing, but is 3D printing an appropriate index for measuring the health of small manufacturers?
Image Credit: © Komarov Andrey/Dollar Photo Club


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