We recently shared our take on why 2D is like 3D printing. While we conceded that the devices themselves are different, we made the argument that the process of printing in two or three dimensions is essentially the same:
File is created >> File is sent to print device >>
File is printed >> Item is finished (bindery/decoration)
We also made the point that like 2D printing, the 3D printing market will eventually service customers at home (via desktop printers), online (via web-to-print) and at retail (via 3D print shops.) The retail channel has yet to be developed and we think this represents a huge opportunity for traditional printers, print franchises, big box office supply stores, and shipping companies like FedEx and UPS.
One of the objections raised by some in these markets is that the substrates and consumables used in 3D are too dissimilar from those used in traditional printing.
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.