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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!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Super Sirens, Sneezes & Soap Boxes — Some reactions to 3D Printing 'Bandwagonism'


Watching the host of new start-up companies emerge around 3D printing draws conflicting reactions from me, I find. It is, of course, primarily gratifying to see the technologies blossom and evolve, appreciated as they are by a much wider user base and audience than ever before. And yet, at times, it’s disheartening too. The inevitability of individuals and corporations pouncing on the tech is a given, but you’d think a little common sense, a degree of research, some background checking maybe, would go a long way in determining success. Apparently not — some (probably a minority of) companies seem to think that using 3D printing terminology fused with some superior (not in a good way) marketing speak will do just fine!

I generally like to keep things up beat, but that’s not always possible. I’ll deviate from the happy when necessary and today it is necessary.

What’s prompted this post ….. well, let me tell you!

As the stream of press releases and requests for coverage on 3DPI come in from the host of newbies, it is often hard to differentiate between the often similar business models. This, I should add, does not make them unviable per se, it just means they’re fighting for business in a crowd — a big, and growing, crowd.

With the majority there is nothing wrong, and as an Editor I do try to be fair and bring the range of products and services in front of 3DPI’s growing audience as objectively as possible. Where objectivity breaks down, it is usually replaced by exuberance — the team of writers we’re building there are loving the tech and the apps. For the new 3DP start-ups media coverage is essential to help them on their way — they may succeed, they may not. The hard work needed for success is down to them, but if I can help, I will. That’s just the way I am.

However!!!

Sometimes, something lands in my in-box and warning bells go off — and by bells, I mean super sirens.

That’s what happened a couple of days ago when I received a communication from MyO3D.

The marketing ‘bumpf’ (that’s a Rachel word but suitable here) around the core message — another design repository — hailed the first ding dong. It was trying way too hard. But when I read the following, that’s when the sirens went off big time:

"Some may recall the sheer size of the first computers, taking up entire rooms and possessing less power than the phone in your pocket. A similar evolution has been seen in 3D printing; the huge, strictly industrial printers with limited uses [My emphasis] may as well be dinosaurs compared to the compact 3D printers of today, with some being even cheaper than high-end desktop and laptop computers.”

I mean, REALLY???

This just smacks of little to no real knowledge and/or understanding of the industry that they are seeking to operate in. However, me being me, I wanted other opinions, back up if you like. So I sent the quote and link to some of my go-to guys. It seems I hadn’t over-reacted.

This is the order the following came back to me:

Anyone who compares the perceived capabilities of consumer 3D printers and professional 3D printers in this way has simply no business writing on the subject. Absolute drivel.”
Phil Reeves, Managing Director, Econolyst.

“I have sneezed on my keyboard and accidentally produced better websites and concepts than that - it's about as hollow as most 3D printed objects.”
Richard Horne, aka RichRap3D

Ok so the dinosaur analogy is obviously complete rubbish. A more accurate comparison would be to say that industrial machines are cars and cheap compact 3D printers are soap box go karts. Yes cars are more expensive and yes they are bigger but in terms of functionality they leave the go karts behind in every sense of the word.

The author of this thing obviously knows little about the technology and understands less than that. The idea behind the site is yet another way of making money off the efforts of others while contributing little. I’m sure it will be used by some idiots who would quite frankly be better off spending their money on skin cream and deodorant rather than paying for files of chess sets and business card holders with moving parts.”
Jeremy Pullin, Renishaw

The inevitability of business “bandwagonism” and the urge to make fast/big bucks is a story as old as time, but it doesn’t make it any less sad ….. or disappointing. This is not the first case, and it most certainly, unfortunately won’t be the last either.

FYI, I did send a reply to MyO3D, challenging this comment and inviting a response. I’ve had no reply.

















4 comments:

  1. MyO3D undoubtedly got your attention because they hit a nerve, but they only merit your effort as an instructional example of shallow "me too!" startups. Their blog disingenuously says their current service "is stabile, secure, and easy to use" but they haven't accomplished any of those milestones. They're not even meticulous enough to spell "stable" correctly. That site has no tangible vision, no concrete goals, just a smarmy enthusiasm that something great will happen. It's functionally useless.

    Another example that came to my attention is physical3d.com, whose owner got my attention by emailing me, adding me to his "follow" list, and spamming my blog with comments promoting his site. There's the same gushing enthusiasm. Its stated goals are similar to MyO3D, but Pysical3D has actually established a functional site where users could register and exchange content...if they were so inclined. Despite that, I think Physical3D is just as unnecessary as MyO3D.

    There are plenty of examples like these, and the rising tide will bring countless more excited "me too" startups like them. As you put it "the host of newbies" who can't really differentiate themselves from the crowd. They honestly (naïvely) believe they have new vision because the whole field is so new to them. When the tide recedes, most of these will be swept out to sea without leaving any trace.

    The press will eventually learn to distinguish the real pioneers from these wishful neophytes. In the meantime, be vigilant like you were here: debunk their foolishness if you have to.

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  2. Steve Nicholls27 June 2013 at 18:11

    Offering a good news story I have been really impressed with LayerbyLayer.com's new service. They have come up with an innovative method for allowing 3D prints of licensed content without giving away underlying STL files. Their service only works with Makerbot machines today but they are likely to extend this in future. However, the service has already made some designs available to me that are not available by any other channel.

    Just ahead of 3D printing my primary passion is puzzles and if services like this encourage/enable designers like Oskar van Deventer to make designs available to the home market that can only be a good thing. I now own a couple of puzzles that I would not otherwise been able to obtain (affordably!)

    There do seem to be lots of copycat web sites popping up the moment. Frankly if they are all making steps forward like LayerByLayer that can only be a good thing for consumers. For the avoidance of doubt I have no financial/commercial interest in LBL, though I have been volunteering some of my printer time, to help ensure Oskar's puzzles, in particular, work as well as possible when using the service.

    Agree with your sentiments though with so many people jumping on bandwagons it can be tricky to separate the wheat from the chaff and the hype from reality.

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  3. This is a great article and very informative. It is amazing how new technology has improved printers these days. I work in a mail room and 3D printers have come in handy with some of our systems. However, I would have to say the most impressive new system we are using is a Postage Meter machine. They are quick and save you a lot of money.

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  4. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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