By Klaus with K, via Wikimedia Commons
The growth of 3D printing in Scotland could be at risk of being stunted.
This is because the country is lagging behind the rest of the UK in research and development (R&D) investment, according to fresh data.
An annual report from the Scottish government has found that the nation only accounted for four per cent of private business R&D spending in the UK over the course of 2011 - £689 million.
This is a real terms increase of just £54 million on 2010 (8.5 per cent) and was less than half of Scotland's population share.
R&D expenditure by higher education institutions was well above the 8.4 per cent population share at £953 million - 13.4 per cent.
The lack of government investment is a concern to the burgeoning 3D printing industry in Scotland, as emerging economies pump funding into developing the technology in a bid to advance their industrial sectors. As such, a lack of finances in this arena could have wider implications for the economy if businesses cannot adopt new technologies and remain competitive.
A measure of government spending on R&D at £283 million was 12 per cent of the UK total, falling by £20 million on 2010 levels.
Overall, Scottish gross expenditure on R&D in 2011 was just 7.1 per cent of the UK total.
Speaking to BBC News on the matter of Scotland's low levels of R&D financing compared to the rest of the UK, corporate partner at law firm HBJ Gateley Andrew Walker stated: "We have a tremendous network of academia, entrepreneurs and active investors which make Scotland a very attractive place to innovate."
3D printing technologies are a development that has piqued the interest of manufacturing organisations and higher education establishments in recent years - and the technique has not been overlooked by the Scottish government.
Indeed, its website lauds the development as a technology that "is revolutionising manufacturing in laboratories, factories and ... the home," adding "Scotland's manufacturing industries, universities, designers and innovators are at the forefront".
At Glasgow University, scientists are exploring 3D printing and its biomedical applications, while Heriot-Watt University and Roslin Cellab are looking at printing 3D clusters of cells to form human tissue. Furthermore, Glasgow Caledonian University is leading a £3 million EU-funded study to see if 3D printing manufacturing techniques can provide solutions for those suffering from disabling conditions of the feet.
And in the business world, the Scottish government also cited Stirling-headquartered CA Models as a key 3D printing frontrunner, as it uses the technique to create models for a wide range of clients, including Formula 1 race teams requiring parts for tests in wind tunnels. Glasgow's MakLab at The Lighthouse is another organisations with a 3D printer-filled workshop churning out everything from industrial components, moulds and architectural models.
But despite the Scottish government's enthusiasm for 3D printing, the shortage of R&D investment could mean many organisations hoping to get involved in the burgeoning technology will have to wait for private investment or to save enough money to adopt the system.
Mr Walker remarked: "A clearer understanding of the support available in Scotland to companies which invest in R&D and create exciting, flourishing businesses would go some way to attracting more of them to Scotland, and the knock-on benefits that would bring."
"The decreases in the government and higher education figures underline the need for stimulus in business R&D expenditure."