3D Printing Hype

3D Printing Insider Myths and Truths


Is the 3D Printing Hype Over?

Here are 10 European startups still betting on the technology

Nowadays, there are many real-world applications of 3D printing – from medical tools such as prosthetic limbs to building a 90-square-metre house or even making food. 3D printing can also be used in art and jewelry, where 3D scanning technologies allow for the replication of real objects without the use of moulding techniques. In the automotive industry, its application has led to the production of a supercar that utilizes many 3D printed components.

But what is 3D printing, anyway? 3D printing was first conceptualized by David E. H. Jones in 1974, when his idea was “printed” in the New Scientist. The technology was first realized in the 1980s when Chuck Hull designed and printed a small cup. Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D-printed objects are created from a digital file and a printer that lays down successive layers of material until the object is complete.



Metal and Plastic 3D Printing Hype

Metal and plastic 3D printing: hype and the quiet revolution

Metal 3D printing has been the most talked-about technology in the additive manufacturing (AM) space the past few years. It offers the exciting, complex end-use capabilities that plastic 3D printing promised during its rise to media prominence 10 years ago.

Unlike plastic, though, metal delivered on its promise early on. During metal’s rise in popularity, it should be noted that thermoplastic AM has been undergoing a quiet revolution. It has methodically evolved, offering creative new applications for end-use parts and continual innovations for low-volume manufacturing.



10 Issues With 3D Printing, 3D Printed Guns and 3D Printing Hype

As with any new technology, it’s easy to get swept up in the benefits of 3D printing. But 3D printers are still potentially hazardous, wasteful machines, and their societal, political, economic, and environmental impacts have not yet been studied extensively.

A list of 10 things you need to know about the dangers and potentially negative impacts of 3D printers…


It’s a controversial issue, and activists are using a tool which sprung from the 3D printed gun movement to draw attention to their stance on gun rights.

Activists ‘3D Print’ a Gun In Front of the Texas State Capitol as a Form of Protest
Visit: http://3dprint.com/37168/ghost-gunner-texas-open-carry/

Because of rapid advances in 3D printing, the world is plunging towards ethical and political controversy fuelled by the use of the technology to generate living human tissue and organs.

“The day when 3D-bioprinted human organs are readily available is drawing closer, and will result in a complex debate involving a great many political, moral and financial interests,” Basiliere said in a statement.



Additive Manufacturing Consultant Todd Grimm discusses the future of the 3D printing industry. He speaks with Bloomberg’s Cory Johnson on “Bloomberg West.” (Source: Bloomberg)


3d printing now and in the future

3D printing is getting hyped right now, with a front page story in The Economist and a long article in the Times, but we actually think it is underhyped.

Even if it fails to meet some of the expectations of its boosters (and that’s not a foregone conclusion), 3D printing will still probably become an enormous industry and have a tremendous impact on how we buy, sell and produce things.

3D Printing Today
What does 3D printing look like today? According to several reports, the sale of 3D printers and associated services like software is already a billion dollar market. But nobody disputes that 3D printing is very far from a utopian 3D-printer-on-every-desk future.

Today most 3D printing technology uses too few materials, and is too crude in some ways, for most finished products we buy today.

Here’s what people mostly use 3D printing for these days:

Rapid prototyping. This was the early, and still the biggest business case for 3D printing. In plenty of industries from architecture to aerospace, the drawing board and computer screen only takes you so far. You need to build tangible prototypes to move forward. That used to be a big expense, and more importantly, a huge time-suck: there’s no reason a designer should have to wait days for someone to make a prototype until they can move forward. With a 3D printer, designers can have a rough prototype quickly and be much more productive. The word “designers” is making it sound like it’s a few guys in Brooklyn, but 3D printing is already changing the way we make buildings, cars and planes.

Specialty manufacturing. 3D printing is already being used for finished products, but still in specific niches. Some industrial components that would be costly or complex to manufacture are already being 3D-printed. One exciting area with huge potential is prosthetics, where 3D printer allow highly customized prosthetics to be made.

Hobbyists. One of the reasons why you hear about 3D printing is that there’s a small but vocal and growing hobbyists community who enjoy making small doodads. The hobbyist component of 3D printing doesn’t sound impressive, until you realize that the first people who cared about things like cars, planes and personal computers were hobbyists.
3D Printing Tomorrow
We can all picture the an utopian 3D printing future: it would basically look like Star Trek, where replicators can make anything with a mere voice command. This is the “3D printer on every desk and in every home” scenario.

But even if that scenario doesn’t pan out, 3D printing is going to be a huge industry because it’s much more efficient than traditional manufacturing. The main reason is that the current way to manufacture things is to chip away at a block or sheets of raw material, whereas 3D printing adds raw material as needed. Current manufacturing processes create as much as 90% waste. So even if 3D printing is limited to the business world, it’s going to be a huge industry.

And the printer in every home scenario isn’t that far-fetched either — only as far-fetched as “a computer in every home” was in 1975. Like any other piece of technology, 3D printers are always getting cheaper and better. 3D printers today can be had for about $5,000.

From Here To There
So, how do we get from here to there, what are the pitfalls, the opportunities and the big questions?

Today, 3D printers are too unreliable, slow, rough, and manufacturing large objects is cost-prohibitive. It’s hard to build objects with high polish. But early cars were slow, dangerous, and notoriously unreliable.

The biggest difference between today’s manufacturing and a 3D printing world is going to be the advent of mass customization. When each product is printed individually from software, there’s never going to be a reason to buy something that looks like something someone else owns. Companies will have to change not just their manufacturing but their product lines, marketing and even business models.

A serious question is whether 3D printing will be a “jobless industry.” History and economics teaches us that new industries often end up creating more jobs than they destroy, either directly (blacksmiths replaced by car repairmen) or indirectly through higher economic growth, but there’s a not-insignificant chance that 3D printing might be an exception. To be sure, 3D printing will create many jobs: in a world where anyone can make and sell most kinds of items, many people will profit and create new industries. But it’s not sure that these people will be more numerous than all the manufacturing jobs that will be lost.

Now Meet The Players
Who are the companies at the ground floor of this revolution? What sets them apart? What do they have in common with each other?

3D Systems
3D Systems makes many kinds of machines and software, but 3D printers are its biggest market segment. Smartly, it is tackling the customer market as well as the business market.

Associated Press
Autodesk makes all kinds of software used in industrial design, and is a leader in software for 3D printing. Before you can print anything, you need specialized software to design it, and Autodesk does that very well. Before she joined Yahoo, Carol Bartz was famous for leading Autodesk’s turnaround while battling cancer.

Another publicly-traded industrial design software company going into 3D printing is Dassault Systemes.

Desktop Factory was Bill Gross’ effort to make a sub-$5,000 3D printer

What does über-entrepreneur Bill Gross do when he’s not waging war on Twitter or saving the Earth from global warming? The Idealab founder used 3D printing to prototype things for his other companies, saw the potential of 3D printing, and co-founded Desktop Factory with the goal of making sub-$5,000 3D printers. Unfortunately the company didn’t make it and its assets were acquired by 3D Systems. Innovation is impossible without failure.

Makerbot Industries also has a charismatic founder — and sub-$5,000 3D printers

Makerbot is based in New York and makes “robots that make things.” It’s the 3D printing hobbyist’s company, and they build a cheap, basic 3D printers starting at $1,299.

Shapeways, a spinoff from Dutch conglomerate Philips, lets anyone upload their design to the site and order prints, or set up a store so that other people can buy from them. Think of it as Etsy for things that can be 3D printed. And conveniently, Shapeways has raised funding from Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures, also investors

Bespoke Innovations
It’s hard not to get excited about the potential for 3D printing when you think of its potential impact on prosthetics, and healthcare in general. As prosthetics get better and better, they enable people who need them to lead dramatically improved lives. And it’s easy to understand that the customization that 3D printing affords can make a huge difference here.

Sweet Onion Creations
Sweet Onion Creations is a great “3D printing 1.0” company: they help with one of the great uses of 3D printing of today, rapid prototyping. They help architectural firms and other companies prototype quickly with 3D printing, which saves them a lot of money, and also sell other services around that.

Freedom of Creation
Freedom of Creation is a design company. They make chairs, lamps, etc. using 3D printing. They’re a great example of the kind of companies that are going to flourish as 3D printing becomes more reliable and affordable.

Most design companies create designs for other companies and dream of making and selling their own things, but that’s usually a nightmare: handling manufacturing, distribution, marketing, rights, etc. The internet has largely improved the distribution and marketing part. 3D printing promises to do the same for manufacturing.

Contour Crafting
Contour Crafting wants to 3D print HOUSES. They want to build tractor-trailer-like 3D printers to take on construction sites, use them to build walls and other construction components, and then build your house like a giant lego. It’s mostly at the drawing board stage at this point, but it gives you an idea of what the future just might look like.

BONUS: HP and Google
HP has become practically synonymous with printers, and they’re starting to build 3D printers. Good.

And Google has free online software called Sketchup that makes it easy to create designs for 3D printing. Clearly this is an industry they want to be a part of and a story to follow.


3D Printing Has No Useful Consumer Application – According to One 3D Printing Analyst

There’s nothing really compelling from a consumer perspective. If you need a replacement part for your kitchen cabinet or latch on your dishwasher or oven, you can go to the hardware store or go online and buy that. You don’t necessarily have to build it”

“The same holds true with gifts, you could go to the store to buy a gift or go online but a lot of people are making their own things so there’s a place for having a 3D printer in the home.”
When asked what kind of applications would capture the imagination of consumers, he pointed to applications that support education.

“I think one of the best uses for 3D printers in the home is to compliment your child’s education. For example, projects that are being done for school, particularly for secondary education or university, where students are being exposed to design and engineering,” he said.

“If you have a child in high school or college, having the ability to print a model that you worked on as part of a classroom curriculum has real value.”

He went on to say that a compelling consumer application would surface by 2016.
While 3D printing has been around for more than 30 years, the industry has received a lot of attention with the recent availability of consumer printers.

A study by analyst firm Juniper Research suggested sales will jump from an estimated 44,000 this year to one million by 2018 as prices fall and more established printing vendors, such as HP, enter the market. Much of the 3D Printing Literature disagrees with the statements above.


3D Printing Debate – Is 3D Printing Technology Clean or Dirty?

See our heroes inkjet and voxel argue on the the merits of “green” when it comes to 3D Printing Technology.


3D Printing Worries for Marketers – How Can You Protect Your Own Intellectual Property?

The premise that all things are conceivably digital content could be a powerful planning and development tool for marketers. If every product is ultimately intellectual property (a secret recipe or unique configuration of rare parts), how do you not just promote but protect it? If the product underlying your brand promise no longer exists in physical space, but literally pops into existence when consumers create it, what are you promising, exactly? As every aspect of the consumer purchase equation changes and/or shifts, doesn’t it affect your definition of what the “brand” is with which they’re engaging? Will 3D printing branding be a part of your brand?

The brands that survive this evolution will both embrace the steps along the way (like homemade packaging), and enable its advancement, perhaps even promoting it as a benefit to consumers. The rationale for considering such activities now is simple: Look what happened to the industries impacted by the last wave of digitization. Nothing is the same, and many categories are still struggling to define not only what their brands stand for, but how they can make money. Wasn’t it a lot more obvious to them that text could be created for free online, or music reduced to sharable binary bits? Even with that explicit warning, lots of brands were slow to respond, if not wholly unable to do so.

The time when your consumers use replicators like those on Star Trek may be in the future but, like most sci-fi, its not really fantasy as much as future fact imagined in the present. You need to come to terms with it.


3D Printing Law – Does Copyright Law Cover 3D Printed Materials?

The U.S. Constitution states that our patent and copyright law should “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” Two centuries later, the debate about what to promote and what to protect through copyright law continues. Recently, the House Judiciary Committee began an overdue examination into whether the copyright laws need updating as it considered the legality of uploading copyrighted files to peer-to-peer networks. But politicians are overrun by armies of lobbyists and their PACs, all trying to strengthen rather than loosen the copyright monopoly Congress bestows. Thankfully, technology moves quicker than Congress and such innovations as the VCR and personal video recorder survived misguided legislative murder attempts.

Our challenge now is to make sure the 3D printing ecosystem does not die death from a thousand cuts.

Thingiverse, a website that allows people to post and share designs for 3D printers, has been fielding Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notices since at least 2011. Last year, the company that owns the rights to the Tintin comics issued a takedown notice to Thingiverse over a toy design uploaded by one of the site’s users. The original design – for a simple model based on a rocket from the comic – was removed, but another popped up in its place.

The Tintin rocket is a great, small-scale example of the potential for collaboration and innovation in 3D printing. Though the original design was removed from Thingiverse, another user posted a similar design for a Christmas tree ornament based on the rocket. And someone else modified the idea so it could be illuminated, and then redesigned it again so other users could personalize the ornament with their names or other text. Out of just one idea, at least three new products were created, each improving on the last and providing a product that wouldn’t have otherwise been available. Innovation in 3D printing isn’t just about replicating things. It’s about taking an idea and modifying it to make something even better.

The same example illustrates just how inadequate our copyright system can be at protecting intellectual property, while fostering an environment that allows innovation to thrive in the wake of new technologies. Rights holders need to move away from suing or threatening to sue every potential copyright violator, and embrace a system that makes it easy and affordable for at-home 3D printers to access legal and licensed designs. iTunes’ licensing model is a good example. Just as the recording industry has adapted to digital music downloads and found revenue in other areas like touring and merchandise, the creative content and manufacturing industries will have to adapt to 3D printing. And we’ll all be better off for it, with more access to unique, innovative products and services.

It took more than 20 years from the Copyright Act of 1976 to the establishment of “safe harbors” with the passage of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Yet the Internet now puts the world within our reach in ways no one imagined 40 years ago, that were just glimmers of possibility at the turn of this century when DMCA was passed. We can’t let another 20 years go by before we enact appropriate policies that work in today’s constantly changing Internet era.


3D Printing on The Technology Hype Cycle?

There are 5 phases of the technology hype cycle, a term now being more broadly used in the marketing of new technologies. According to the hype cycle, 3D printing is at the peak of inflated expectations.

3D Printing Hype Cycle
Read More: Why 3-D Printing Will Go the Way of Virtual Reality