What Opportunities Exist for 3D Printing?

By on June 26th, 2013

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading on 3D printing lately. It’s funny, because while the technology is based on inkjet, it’s not really printing at all. It’s really additive manufacturing. But that sounds too complicated, so 3D printing is what stuck.

Currently, we’re in those early stages of 3D printing in which we’re all trying to figure out what the future products and revenue streams are going to look like. Not everyone can produce automobile skins, cosmetic wraps for prosthetics, or personalized iPhone cases.  For the printing industry, what products and service make sense for us?

Seventy percent of the 3D printing market is reported to be prototypes. The remaining 30% of products are direct manufacturing in small quantities, as well as personalized gifts, specialty items, and even artwork (check out Geoff Mann’s “Attracted to Light“).

Prototypes and super-short-run manufacturing can certainly be less expensive than using traditional methods, but they certainly aren’t cheap. They just have tremendous potential.

I can see the use of 3D printing in the use of promotional items or incentives. Instead of personalizing someone’s name on a promotional item such as a baseball or die-cut origami fish (both of which have been tremendously successful as part of 3D direct mail packages), why not personalize an iPod case (“Give us 1 hour of your time and you’ll get the iPod to go inside it!”)? Or use someone’s LinkedIn profile picture to create a 3D model of their head and shoulders?

There are tremendous possibilities here. What are some of your ideas?

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One Response to “What Opportunities Exist for 3D Printing?”

  1. Heath Cajandig Says:

    I’m glad you pointed out that it really isn’t printing at all. Custom, one-off manufacturing is nothing new but the additive nature of this is what makes it unique.

    Either way, it isn’t printing and I wonder if that term is going to hurt more than it helps our industry. To the average person, it redefines the possibilities associated with the word “printing”.