Tag Archive | 2D printing

Why 2D is Like 3D Printing – a Counter-Rant

[ALSO APPEARING ON TECHCRUNCH]

I recently read an article on TechCrunch by Jon Evans entitled, “3D Printers Are Not Like 2D Printers.” While I would agree with the title (obviously the two devices don’t serve the same purpose), I don’t agree with argument Jon makes for why 3D printing is not like 2D printing.

His primary argument is that 3D printers make “stuff,” while 2D printers disseminate information. I’d counter that argument by pointing out that packaging, boxes and other forms of dimensional print not only provide information, but serve as containers – stuff that holds other stuff. Jon’s point is that “our relationship to stuff is thoroughly, extremely, fundamentally different from our relationship to information.” I would agree noting that with some amusement that kids sometimes play with the box more than the toy because they perceive the box as more interesting stuff.

More importantly to me however is the implied assertion that 3d printed “stuff” doesn’t or can’t disseminate information. Consider for example, the 3D printed, customizable Android figurines currently for sale on Cubify.com. Other than to promote the brand, what purpose do they serve, and with the obvious exception of an extra dimension, how are they really any different than a poster or wall graphic of a customized Android figure?

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What Could HP Do for 3D Printing?

As I was walking around the GraphExpo show in Chicago last week, one nagging thought kept recurring. What’s different from last time I was here? Sure there were a few new software players and some new digital presses, but really, what had changed since the last time I was there in 2007? Nothing really revolutionary. Pretty much every program, every device, and every finishing solution was dedicated to putting ink on paper. While I’m not ready to argue that print as an overall business is dying, some of the killer applications I saw in 2007 are either dead or on life support. Software manuals? Digital. Statements? Paperless. Just this week in fact, Newsweek announced that they’re going to a digital-only format after 80 years as a printed magazine. What is the industry’s plan for a future with even less print?

I spent a lot of time talking with vendors like Lexmark and HP. I asked how they were doing in light of their companies overall performance and their respective decisions to exit the desktop inkjet printer market. Most seemed to feel insulated from that side of the business. In fact the production people at HP gave me the impression that they were one of the only shining stars inside the company. I sat in their booth wondering how long that tugboat could drag the barge behind it. They’ll need to pivot soon or get ready to join Kodak on death row.

Then today I read this fascinating piece on how 3D printing could save HP. It seems like a natural pivot for them. They’ve got the infrastructure and experience of producing devices on a large scale. They understand the consumable side. They’ve got an extensive distribution network. They still spend a ton on R&D and could easily redirect some of it or acquire one of the many smaller startups that have taken an early lead in the 3D market.

The market is developing rapidly and it seems new applications are being announced every day.

To reach scale rapidly, a lot of infrastructure needs to be developed. So maybe the bigger question is, what could HP do for 3D printing? With their considerable experience in development, design and packaging, they could certainly help better “productize” 3D printers for the home market. With considerable technical and marketing resources they could help simplify the software, mainstream awareness of the technology, and flush out applications for its use.

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