Total 3D Print EVERYTHING with this 3D Printing Business Idea! Taking a multi-dimensional approach to making a complicated and intimidating industry easy to understand and access!
Most of us have heard of 3D Printing. Scan an item or design a model, hit a button and it’s created layer by layer right before your eyes, somewhat reminiscent of replicators or bio-matter resequencers from Star Trek (I may be dating myself here). It’s like you’re own mini manufacturing line!
As simple as the explanation above may sound it trivializes the process and entry into this often mysterious and baffling world for newcomers. The price of 3D printers has fallen dramatically recently over the years based on old patents expiring opening up the market to an ‘open source’ approach.
There are major patents that expired earlier this year and even more continuing well into 2015, promising exciting innovation and an even lower barrier of entry into the market (we hope!).
Why 3D print anything, I don’t get it?
So what’s the big deal, why would I want to buy or how would I make use of a 3D printer? It could be for a number of reasons – you’re a hobbyist, want to create something fun for the family, have a design for a basic product you would like to create locally at your leisure under your full discretion and control, or perhaps you’re on to ‘the next big product’ that you’d like to prototype – the list goes on and on.
Household consumer adoption – why hasn’t it happened?
Firstly, while most will agree that this is a REALLY cool technology many people don’t have a use for 3D printing (or at least they don’t know it yet), in fact it’s not uncommon for regular computer printers to have sat idle for some time as we progressively more closer to a paperless society. That being said there is a want and need but it’s scary because it’s still relatively new, expensive and the perception is that it requires superhuman advanced skills to operate. The media covers stories around houses and cars being built with 3D printers leaving the average consumer immediately dismissive of any entry into such an advanced world.
3D printing has been around for 30 years, taking 20 years to become a billion dollar market and another five years to hit the two billion dollar mark. It’s expected to DOUBLE in 2015 to four billion and exceed 10 billion by 2021 (2021 *sounds* SO far away, almost a date you would expect to hear out of a sci-fi futuristic novel but it’s right around the corner!). Again with many key patents expiring and the technology become easier to use, more accessible, generally better understood and more pervasive across all channels this could be the new age gold rush – early prospectors and adopters may find themselves handsomely rewarded for their initiative.
Where and why do you fit in this ‘evolution’?
You can explore this from both sides – from the DIY’ers to people that need a 3D printing related services. Both are in need of help, and lots of it!
There are still many factors preventing most people from entering the market.
- Lack of knowledge – everything from is that a good price, the right model, what are my options, how does it work, where do I find it? They may even have an idea for ‘a million dollar product’ but be overwhelmed by the process to find then outsource the design and creation of a product or prototype (typically offshore which can be unsettling and lack consumer confidence – I want to work local!). The list is extensive.
- Lack of skill – I have a fun knick-knack for the family I want created, an idea for a product I need prototyped, maybe I want to ‘download’ existing models but have no idea how to make slight changes or edits, or even have the level of understanding to ‘load’ it into the program. I may not even understand how to setup the printer or load ‘whatever it is’ that goes into it to start creating layers. It’s not like using email or a Web browser (which many people still struggle with *ahem* Dad) – some programs and printers are more intuitive than others however it can be a complicated, daunting mess that most avoid at all costs.
- Printer availability – Personally I would be hard pressed to find somewhere that even sells 3D printers locally. I wouldn’t know anything about whether or not it’s right for me or offered at a competitive price (because there are few competitors and it’s not readily advertised in your local big box flyers!). Sure I can buy online (if you’re in the US or select other regions), but there are lots of options, perhaps too many – I don’t get to see, feel and touch the item, can only see a ‘staged’ in action video by professionals, and leaves many questions I as a consumer would have when making a large purchased largely unanswered.
- Service availability – I need a design printed. I need a design created. I need an item scanned and reproduced. I need a how to course on how to operate my printer, scanner, software or design program. I’m in between – I can’t afford a machine but I’m a DIY’er that needs to ‘rent’ some time and resources. I’m making a purchase but have no idea how to setup my system – I need a hand getting started.
- Cost – It’s not a commodity nor are they cheap. Printer prices can range from several hundred for a basic printer, into the hundreds of thousands for commercial grade applications. As sharply as the price of these 3D printers has dropped, it’s not the only barrier of entry into the market. Many of the printers that hobbyists or consumers can afford (or more aptly would invest in) are far from manufacturing models and often produce lacklustre results. It’s typically not a finished, polished product – it’s a novelty. Many models produced are not capable of creating the functional prototype ready for mass production or to attract investors. While really ‘cool’, only give you a basic sense of creating some basic ’throwaway’ in 3D. There are a few machines that teeter on the commercial / consumer edge capable of creating closer to if not finished products / prototypes however these machines are still out of range for most hobbyists or those new to the game at 3-5k.
I’m interested in / need 3D printing services but I lack the knowledge, skill, I’d have no idea where to start looking or how to find it, and even if I did it’s cost prohibitive! Help!