Josh Ingleby

3D / Motion Artist

Why 3D Printing will make a mark

Part 1: A case for mass adoption

Part 2: Links for further resources / getting started (at the bottom)


Makerbot Replicator

Having recently acquired a 3D printer, there’s lots of hype about the technology and most of what’s out there poorly expresses the real potential.

Business has had 3D printing for years. What’s interesting is that the hardware has become affordable to sell to individuals at a (mildly) reasonable price (…at the moment $600-3k CDN).

As with all emerging technologies, they come with their shortfalls. Although the shortfalls are worth noting, they’re not worth focusing on too heavily as improvements are coming out monthly. At the moment, printers are slow (5 mins to 12+ hours a print), materials are limited, and the technology isn’t entirely user friendly. All of this will be resolved as companies understand how to incorporate this into their business plans.

A fair comparison would be to say that 3D printing is in the dot-matrix era of 2D printers. Although paper printers have yet to replace the quality experienced in a magazine, they still revolutionized how a home computer is used and in most households.

Tech companies which sell and support the maker industry are popping up monthly. Online communities are figuring out solutions that inform the companies that make the devices. And advertisers are eager to promote products with new technology…as long as there is purpose behind the experience.

As companies + advertisers get on board, prices for printers will drop and practical uses for average people will increase.

In the early 2000’s Napster entirely disrupted a 50+ year old industry and experts didn’t know what to do. 15 years later business caught up with services like Rdio, Spotify, iTunes Store and Ad supported free content.

I foresee business adopting Printing in similar ways:

  • Giving away free models could be equivalent to creating engagement on Facebook
  • Companies could design high quality models that accessorize their product and put it above others in the market.  (Free or at a reduced cost)
  • Brands can create a community where they promote their best “creators” that have adapted their accessory/product
  • Company support may be able to save money on phone calls / replacement parts if a user is able to print a broken replacement piece
  • Digital Download coupon codes could be given away at live events for exclusive content

Brands spend tonnes of money each year in an attempt to make an emotional connection with their customers. It only seems obvious that providing customers with the tools to customize a product and print it on their own will create a personalized dialog between companies and consumers.

Hobbyists may be carving the way, but main stream adoption is only a matter of time.

Getting started

Hardware:

Makerbot.com – Consumer / Prosumer printers starting at $1375

Toronto Reference Library – ($0.05 per minute for printing)

Download Models:

Thingiverse.com/collections – Community driven free models

Shapeways.com – Purchase quality models and have them printed / shipped

Free tools to Create:

123D Design – Easily build your own basic shapes / models

123D Catch – Use your iOS device to take pictures that automatically convert to a model


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