3D printing is a topic I’ve written a lot about lately, and the commercial printing industry is still trying to figure out how it fits — or if it fits — into the mix. I’ve written a number of posts on 3D printing over the past several months, so I won’t repeat my comments here (I will post links to previous posts below). Instead, I want to offer this simple food for thought.
- Staples in The Netherlands is currently offering its own 3D printing service, Easy 3D, similar to the Shapeways model. We must believe something similar is in the works here in the United States.
- The UPS Store already has six beta sites for 3D printing. The Kearny Mesa store has done extremely well with this technology, even garnering a feature write-up in Forbes.
- Other big box retailers with printing services are scrutinizing the technology, as well. Active research is being done not just into 3D printing, but into the kinds of marketing applications I’ve talked about here on Digital Nirvana and have been encouraging the printing industry to consider for about a year now.
There has been a lot of water cooler talk about why 3D printing is not a good model for commercial printers — that its product manufacturing, prototyping, and consumer tschotkes are too far flung from the commercial printing model — but I continue to suggest that this is the wrong way to think about 3D printing.
3D printing must be seen in light of its opportunities to drive marketing campaigns. This means incentives and response drivers for the kinds of jobs commercial printers are already doing. Printers don’t even have to do the 3D printing themselves. These models work even if you outsource the production to someone else.
I don’t believe 3D printing is something this industry can afford to ignore. If you don’t start thinking about it now, the inevitable entry of the national retailers into this market will drive printers to play catch-up in the future. I am seeing more and more signs of serious interest from the national chains, so this is something printers need to take seriously.
Catch-up is never a good place to be!
Links to previous Digital Nirvana posts on 3D printing: