After sharing about “Capturing Life’s Memorable Moments in 3D” on the Shapeways blog, I wanted to share some follow on thoughts here.
There is demand for well crafted objects that can also be personalized, and you only need to look through Etsy and Shapeways to see that this is becoming a very practical way to create and sell unique items at prices often upwards of $50. To the buyer they aren’t just ordering something online, they have the feeling that they are paying for an item to be personalized and fabricated for them.
It’s human nature to have a stronger affinity with an object that has been personalized for you, even more so if the object bares the likeness of yourself or a loved one. If you think back to the 2000’s and the sudden increase in personalized mugs/coasters/mousepads/t-shirts as digital cameras became ubiquitous. How many millions of photomugs have been sold in the last decade?
Now what if you could print the 3D likeness of your mother on a mug to give her on mother’s day… Or your child’s portrait in a silver locket as a heirloom… Even the family dog can get a custom dog tag (if you can keep him still long enough for a 3D scan).
3D Printing is already starting to deliver on the promise of mass customization, and I think we should look forward to the potential of mass personalization as more people bring themselves as the input to the designer.
If 3D Printing is easy to teach then it can directly influence how quickly we will see adoption of 3D Printers in schools and at home.
I recently had the opportunity to observe a group of teachers learning about 3D Printing and hear their views about introducing 3D printing to their students.
In just 8 hours they learnt about everything from FabLabs & Thingiverse through to MeshLab & Sculptris. This group were more tech savvy than the average teacher, so once their interest piqued they were excited to learn as much as they could.
I talked informally with them through the day, and noted some interesting perspectives, but one comment really stood out.
“If I can learn all this in a day, then my students can pick it up even quicker”
If this holds true and students as young as 10-12 years can quickly pick up tools like Mineways & TinkerCAD to start creating their own content, then the future is very bright for personal fabrication.
In the near future we could see not only 3D Printers in most schools, but also see them unable to keep up with the quantity of things the students are submitting to print.
That is a future I can’t wait to see!
After reading Rachel Park’s excellent attempt to assess and explain the various subsets of the “Additive Informed” audience, I’ve taken up the challenge to try and illustrate the focus and positioning of each subset. For context you should start with “If You’re Reading This You’re Probably ‘Additive-Informed’ — Which Subset(s) Do You Belong In?”
Starting with the left side “Established / Informed” it should be clearer what target audiences each subset are focused on serving, however the size is only illustrative. The scale from Cynics to Believers should correlate to how soon each subset believes we will see a shift towards adoption by the mass market.
The “Unaddressed Markets” on the right isn’t divided into subsets, but within the audience I’ve labeled them keeping the Consumer - Global axis so they align with the left. The scale beneath is my view whether we will see these groups adopting 3D Printing in the Short, Medium, or Long Term.
So where do I see myself in this landscape? Most likely in the middle of the “Early Adopters” subset. Where do you see yourself?
I’ll update the illustration if there are other subsets that could be identified, or if tweaks should be made to the positioning.
The hype around 3D Printing and Personal Fabrication has grown exponentially in the last year. This is expected for any exciting new technology that is showing the potential to go mainstream.
However, as pundits and observers are quick to point out, there isn’t a “Killer App” that would drive consumers to buy a 3D Printer. This in turn pushes some estimates for mass adoption out into the 10-15 year timeframe.
Robert Schouwenburg summarizes the arguments against a “Killer App” in a recent post: http://www.schouwenburg.com/killer-application-for-3d-printing. I’d like to expand further and discuss how this then changes or at least influences the purchasing decision and adoption.
Let’s consider that some consumer technology purchases are based on the broader appeal and possibilities a technology could bring to a family or household.
A lot of families in the 80’s bought their first computer right at the time when the Personal Computer made it’s jump from early adoption to mainstream. It was a significant investment (usually > $5,000) and there wasn’t a clear return, just a promise that a PC would bring enjoyment and utility for a family.
Sure enough PCs delivered on that promise and over time proved to be even more enjoyable and useful than initially expected.
So what about 3D Printing & Personal Fabrication? While cool and appealing to makers and artists, could it not also bring enjoyment and prove its usefulness for an average family?
I believe that this will be very similar to the 80’s PC purchase and some families will be willing to invest > $1,200 in a 3D Printer based on expectations alone.
The other parallel then is that a lot of people will have underestimated the technical skills required to really operate a 3D printer. While some people will be letdown others will be looking for community classes to gain competency.
Much the same as spreadsheet and word processing classes were in high demand in the early 90’s we can expect the same demand for learning simple CAD tools like TinkerCAD.
At the same time most people are likely to first experience 3D printing by trying services such as Shapeways, Ponoko, and the like. Picture someone going to an introduction to CAD course, coming home to upload their model, and just days later they have their custom designed buttons. This will work to build consumer confidence in the technology and make the benefits of owning a home printer more tangible.
My prediction then is that there will not be a “Killer App” for 3D Printing and yet we will see a push through early adoption and into the first phase of mass adoption within 3 to 5 years. I’ll expand more my thoughts on the adoption phases in the next post :)