Many in the industry consider prototypes the primary or, “killer” application for 3D printing. Why? Because new products are typically designed using 3D software, they’re also “print ready,” making them low hanging fruit for anyone with a 3D printer. But because of 3D printing, more prototypes are also “production ready.” The prototype is the product! This allows people to disrupt the traditional product innovation process, making 3D printing a fast track to innovation.
Industry insider and MakerBot CEO, Bre Pettis certainly drinks the kool-aid. He says,
“Makerbot is an innovation company.” We innovate ourselves to empower other people to innovate. Our mission is to jumpstart the next industrial revolution.”
How exactly does 3D printing help people innovate? By flattening process and removing upfront cost.
Within a week two different manufacturers of 3D printers announced they will open retail locations where customers can see their products in action. First, MakerBot announced it would open its first retail location in New York City in conjunction with the launch of its newest product – the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer. Then Deezmaker, another maker of desktop 3D printers announced it would open its first retail location in Pasadena, California.
While both manufacturers have cited retail stores as a great way to demo (and sell) their products, its almost a given that they will also sell products manufactured on their devices. So, it’s likely that the first 3D print shops have just opened for business.
What could this mean for the 2D printing industry? For traditional printers this could be a huge opportunity to expand into a new and growing market. While the mechanics of 3D printing are certainly different than digital printing, the process is essentially the same. A file comes in and a product goes out. Who better to manage that workflow than a printing company? There will be a learning curve, but as the technology improves and processes are reduced to practice, 3D printing could provide traditional printers with access to a whole new market, injecting life into an industry that’s seen its share of decay over the last few years. We think that’s an opportunity worth pursuing.