3D Printing Myths- Challenged

From the Book: How to 3D Print Money.

Myth #1: 3D printing will not catch on because it is too technical. The interesting question is, too technical for who? Engineers and manufacturing technicians have always been technical people. These practitioners have been dealing with design drawings and specifications and blueprints (print and electronic) for decades, so they will clearly grasp new technologies quickly. However, the consumer will also. The “how” of 3D printing won’t be interesting to many of us; we will be interested in the benefits of it. What will it do for my business, my brand, or my needs?

As 3D printing applications mature, so does their ease of use. Right now there are even iPhone and iPad apps that allow consumers to create, augment, design, and order 3D-printed specialty products by tracing their fingers over a tablet computer. The apps get easier to use and cost less and less over time. My nine-year-old can design and print her own tea cups. Too technical? Not true.

Myth #2: Most people won’t do any 3D printing because they aren’t manufacturing people. The best part about myths is that there can be some truth to them. In this case, the statement is true; most people are not manufacturing people. But most people are not plumbers either! Does this mean the entire field of plumbing hasn’t gotten more advanced, more accessible to the consumer (look at all the plumbing parts available in Home Depot) and more user friendly? Since we as people are still going to need “stuff,” we are still going to need “stuff” made. 3D printing is another way to make “stuff.” Even if everyone doesn’t become a home manufacturer, we are still consumers.

Myth #3: 3D printing will never replace traditional assembly line manufacturing. There is truth to this as well. Assembly lines with large economies of scale will not go away. Those assembly lines may move from country to country, but won’t disappear as a methodology. But who says 3D printing has to replace it? Can’t it augment it? Just as TV did not replace radio, this rapid prototyping and incredible customization will add to assembly line’s capabilities. And once the small runs available through 3D printing are utilized, we can go back to the large runs to get the per unit cost down.

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