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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 9 May 2017

A Follow Up on Sensationalism & 3D Printing

The latest OpEd I wrote for Disruptive Insight (Issue 4), caused a bit of a stir. I figured it might and I braced myself for the backlash, but sometimes things need to be said, even when they’re contentious. It starts a debate and it invites feedback of all sorts and that’s good. Different perspectives are good.

The issue of increasing sensationalised marketing, and conversations I have had about it with a number of different people, led to that post. I highlighted a couple of examples from the 3D printing and additive manufacturing industry — namely Carbon and Rize — and the feedback came.

To reiterate, one more time, this was not intended to be negative commentary on either of these processes, which I believe are disruptive in nature. And they are representative of a problem that is industry wide. That said, in the interests of fairness I do need to follow up on the original post with this one, following conversations with the both the companies in question.

Subsequent to the original post being published, Phil DeSimone of Carbon pointed out to me that the intent behind the “Stop Prototyping, Start Producing” tagline, is different to how people (me included) have understood it.

In actual fact, what that tagline actually means, according to Phil, is don’t just think about additive technology as a prototyping tool, start thinking about it as a production method. “We’re not telling people to stop prototyping!” I caught up with Dana McCallum of Carbon on the show floor at the Rapid + TCT event in Pittsburgh today to follow up further, Phil is currently in Germany, and I learned that the real messaging behind the tagline holds tremendous value — prototyping, or rather iterating on the same hardware, with the actual materials that will be used for final production is a powerful tool for Carbon’s OEM clients.   

It just needs one more word to more precisely convey that, and I boldly suggested it: “stop (just) prototyping, start producing.”

I will confess, however, I do feel stupid — the actual intent makes a lot more sense than the assumed intent. But you read “stop prototyping” and the immediate implication is that you don’t need to prototype any more. It produces a strong reaction too, which I also explained.

Regardless, there are lessons here, for me and for vendors, I think. I need to be more careful, more rational and ask more questions behind the intent. The vendors do also have a duty of care in their messaging, and the words that they choose and/or omit.

I went to talk with Julie Reece of Rize at Rapid + TCT today too. Her response to the original post was immediate and defensive across the social media channels. But we talked it out, face to face. Understanding her perspective also gave me pause for thought, in that there are many marketing claims made across the 3D printing industry that don’t hold up under scrutiny — “office friendly,” “fully dense,” “unprecedented strength” among them.” She is absolutely right, I said as much in my original post. She also explained how the 25 seconds per part required for removing supports off a Rize platform, compared with 3+ hours for parts off similar machines, was the reasoning behind the tagline. I don’t disagree that the virtually zero post-processing with the Rize platform is a huge leap forward, and extremely attractive for 3D printer users. But as with Carbon, I pointed out that one extra word in the tagline would have the same impact: “virtually zero post-processing” — moreover, it is both true and credible. She did not disagree and we parted friends.

So even though these two examples were used in my original post because they were based on real conversations I have had in recent weeks, I feel like a mission is developing ……

Either that or I just STFU, which has occurred to me too!


  1. No, Rachel. You were right. Period. I understand the importance of maintaining relationships within our community and particularly among vendors, but sometimes, you just have to tell the truth. Not because it is fun (even though it can be fun), but because it is necessary, for the sake of the industry. I fully believe that was your intent.

    Calling out specific brands or names is always a risky endeavor, but an opinion piece is dross without examples to back up the opinion. Your options were to either explain these were only two of many, which you did, or to list a litany of offenders, thus increasing the potential backlash and possibly labeling yourself an anti-industry crusader or watchdog.

    When we criticize a trend, it is because we believe the trend hurts the industry as a whole. You made that very clear, in my opinion. Our goal is to extend and expand the industry's survival, because without it, what would we write about?

  2. Funny that. I just noticed Rize have used one of our test benchmark models as their "part of the month". And the post says "Five minutes" to remove the supports.

    Five minutes isn't zero. Five minutes is also 2 minutes longer than it took to remove the supports from the same part off the Markforged Mark Two and the Ultimaker (using a single build material).


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