January 20, 2013

3D printing: details, dollars and delusions

Another article from a 3D printing sceptic. Barry Randall in a (devil's advocate) opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch. 3D printing nonbelievers are important to listen to and offer an interesting perspective. I file these in a category of my blog called 3D printing naysers.

quotemarksright.jpgAccording to MarketWatch, there is no doubt that 3D printing offers tangible benefits to manufacturers, shortening product-development times and reducing waste. But there are two dangers on the horizon for investors: 1) the belief that a consumer-oriented mass market will develop for these machines, and 2) the destructive cannibalization of these companies' profitable high-end devices.

First: the consumer market. Consumer prices are going down, but getting consumers to buy millions of these devices isn't about the price of the box. It is about the time and effort necessary to make anything useful.

Easy-to-use CAD-CAM software doesn't exist.  Catia, AutoCAD, Creo and other CAD programs are powerful, but as yet they have not become easy to use, even for professionals. So the idea that the existence of cheap 3D printing will somehow beget easy-to-use design software is delusional.

Dont' compare 3D Printing going mainstream with desktop publishing. Some have compared the arrival of cheap 3D printers with that of cheap word-processing software and inkjet printers 30 years ago. But that was different because typing was a skill already possessed by the majority of educated adults... The ability to use even rudimentary 3D design software isn't a common skill, nor is it one picked up easily.

Not so sure about this, Makerbot Thingiverse with Customizer is offering templates that you can customise with no 3D design skills needed. (emily)

On the factory floor. Manufacturing operations managers will be test-driving all the new low-end devices and pressuring their traditional suppliers for a good explanation why they're paying so much.quotesmarksleft.jpg

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