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Ewloe, United Kingdom
Writing, tweeting, debating and occasionally getting a little over-excited about 3D Printing. But always aiming to keep it real!

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Slightly more cohesive thoughts on 3D Printing in 2012

Following up on yesterday's rather rushed post, rushed because I was a woman on a mission, to complete my [long] to-do list for the day, and was fast running out of time. And I succumbed to the premise that anything is better than nothing. Apologies for that! Oddly enough, a touch of insomnia brought some much-needed time to just think and sift through the brain overload in order to gain some perspective. Notwithstanding, I feel a tad tired, but much calmer than the mad woman of yesterday!

And there was plenty to think about. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) hosted in Las Vegas, USA for 2012, even before its doors open today, has got the year off to an explosive start. As I mentioned yesterday, 3D Systems is using this event as the platform for launching Cubify.com and introducing the consumer-targeted Cube 3D printer (of which more later). 

Makerbot's early 2012 announcement, introducing the Replicator 3D printer, was also revealed yesterday, and will be at this show. Makerbot has achieved extraordinary things since it launched just over two years ago — not least the following it has acquired, which is both brilliant and astonishing. Bre Pettis, who has actively lead the company since its inception, has instigated a very effective formula that combines technological know-how with successful engagement of his target market. The dividends speak for themselves. 

The new Replicator 3D printer takes the Makerbot offerings to the next level. It comes fully assembled, as a plug & play machine, with improved features such as a larger build area and "Dualstrusion", essentially the ability to print two materials within the same build. The price is $1999 or $1749 for the single extruder version. Although targeted at "personalised manufacturing" I don't think this price point is quite right for that yet, but I have already heard a multitude of converts say they want one! 

I imagine Makerbot's stand will be inundated later on today when CES opens its doors.

Another very interesting announcement came recently from Sculpteo. After nicely overhauling it's website for the start of the year, this 3D print company has launched a very neat new iphone app providing easy mobile access to 3d printable data. Accessibility to customisable, 3D printable data, which encapsulates and liberates one of the biggest selling points of 3D printing, namely the ability to print unique, personalised products quickly, easily and cheaply, is the way to grow. This is also what the Cubify.com platform is bringing with it. Easy access to 3D data for 3D printing. The little girl with the yellow shoes testifies to that! Cubify goes live about four hours from now (thanks Deelip!) and I imagine I won't be the only one testing it out today ;-) 

I do still see the Sculpteo-type business model as the main growth area for 3D printing within the consumer industry for the foreseeable future. Consumers, in the main, will be attracted to the ability to choose and customise their own products, and have a 3rd party print and send. We will have to wait a few months to see if the Cube or Replicator proves me wrong — or indeed, any of the others! 

In terms of unit sales of 3D printers, I am sure they will continue to grow also. For now though, I see the greatest target markets for these as SME's and educational institutions. Getting the design tools and 3D printers into classrooms across the board, is, I am convinced, the surest way of growing the market in the longer term, whilst exciting future generations of designers and engineers and growing these skill bases once again. Moreover, as I have said before, if children grow up comfortable with these technologies in the classroom, they will be confident when it comes to having one in their home! And that's the ultimate goal, isn't it? 


  1. It will have more demand in the future. Manufacturers are starting to use more of its functions.

  2. In marketing and advertising, a compelling print ads has been proven to be a more effective way to attract more clients and consumers. The addition of 3D technology will surely increase the sales of products and services of a certain company. It's even more compelling that 2D prints.3d advertising

  3. 3D prints would make photos come to life. Like what Angeline said, this is good for marketing and advertising because people would find the ads more catchy. 3D printers must be used more by people, it is good. eco print

  4. I think that 3D printing can also help for document storage and organization, especially when there are important documents that are needed to be produced. Making 3D copies of them would make it more visible.

  5. 3D printing is the future of printing images and/or documents. It would surely give life to a photo. Although it's indeed expensive at present, time will come that the cost of normal printing today will also be the cost of 3D printing in the future. For now, I am contented with the printing services that the Bristol printing company provides me.

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