3D Printing For The Mainstream


My good friend Al Dean of DEVELOP3D has written an interesting piece on his blog titled “3D Systems: gearing up for the mainstreaming of 3D printing“. He has tried to put pieces of the 3D Systems puzzle together. He explains the acquisition spree that 3D Systems has been on for the last couple of years and makes guesses regarding where the company is headed. He predicts:

In a year or whatever it takes, 3D Systems will have a global manufacturing capacity, presumably backed up by the hundreds of service bureaux it already has machines in place at. It has the potential to build a back catalogue of not only higher-end products from the likes of Freedom of Creation, but also the community built 3D models from The3DStudio.com. That means that as 3D printing becomes more mainstream, as the general public (as opposed to the professional user) becomes more aware of the ability to direct manufacture its own parts and products, it stands to be ready. With content to lead those that don’t have the desire or ability to model their own.

All I will add is this. Go to www.3dsystems.com and take a look at the main menu towards the top.

We have Personal 3D Printers, Professional 3D Printers and Production 3D Printers. Al has hit the nail on the head. The time has come to take 3D printing to the mainstream. Everybody understands “3D” and everybody understands “printing”. There is no point in confusing the crap out of everyone with terms like additive fabrication/manufacturing/prototyping/whatever. The mainstream does not understand those terms and will not want to have anything to do with it. That’s precisely why we named our company Print3D. Its obvious. We print in 3D.

Over these years I have watched in absolute amazement industry analysts and commentators argue this topic to death. And then some more. They have all been fighting over terms to describe what  it is that they are doing. There is an age old mailing list called RPML where people have been pulling terms out of their asses for as long as I can remember. They fail to see that the technology has outgrown their thinking and has taken a form of its own.

This industry is at the point where the smartphones were before Apple created the iPhone. Back then we had convoluted devices with confusing terminologies and user interfaces to do complicated things. The result was that  the devices could be used only by people who could make sense of it all. Apple threw all that aside and created a beautiful device that abstracted the complexities of a smartphone in such a way that even kids could use it. The result was millions of iPhones flooded the market and the smartphone industry opened up overnight.

We need something similar and we need to start by keeping it simple. I say screw this additive and subtractive bullshit. I’m calling this 3D printing because that is precisely what it is.