This is the last part of a five part series on 3D Printing versus Mass Production. This is a part of a series of posts on 3D printing versus Mass Production. The other parts are: The Power of Unique, Manufacturing Complexity and Marketing Promise, Everything you own Sucks and More Beautiful Landfill.
3D printing is a wish fulfillment technology
At its most abstract 3D printing is a wish fulfillment technology, a Santa industry and all of us are its elves. But, in order for 3D printing to be able to equal the manufacturing capability of mass produced cameras would take many years and might never be possible. Better to hack and work with those technologies to use them as Lego blocks to build what you need, right now. Better to be the parasite on the cancer that is mass production. Instead of a Santa that would truly let anyone make anything all the time at home with their own tools and printers it would be a selective Santa. For those who take their time and investigate it can make just the things that they need. For others it will be too much of a hassle. In this way a particular type of person will be attracted to 3D printing. This person will either be interested in the technology itself or in the things people can make with this technology.
It is this small group perhaps numbering less than 100,000 today that is pushing the technology forward. These are the elves, the vanguard. They come to 3D printing to fulfill their own wishes but some are finding out that it is as a vehicle for another person”s wishes 3D printing can make money for them.It is by understanding 3D printing and its constraints that elves can make money by anticipating the products and processes that will entice others to join the 3D printing camp. These elves and the existing 1 billion dollar revenue Business to Business 3D printing industry will create both the demand and technology needed to fulfill these wishes while attempting to predict the wishes people will have.
In this manner 3D printing will bloom in mass production”s shadow. Meanwhile mass market 3D printing services and 3D printers will be launched and they will drag in more people. The fanfare will be focused on these projects but the real action will be the babbling brook of individuals deciding that they need perfection for that one thing. Gradually, slowly and surely mass production”s power users will amble over to 3D printing. The Engadget addicts, Apple fanboys, Wallpaper junkies, those most interested in better and best. It is they that will make 1% of all things with 3D printing. 1% of everything doesn”t sound like much. It seems a lot less exciting than “distributed manufacturing”. a superabundance of goods, a 3D printer on every desktop, everyone in the world making everything they want, tea earl grey, hot. I do however believe it to be a realistic estimation of the annual revenue of the entire 3D printing industry by 2020. 1% of the 17% of world GDP that is manufacturing would amount to a $100 billion a year market. Just a tiny sliver of that will go a long way to supporting a whole lot of elves and help defeat the rapacious bane of our world that is mass production.
Image, Creative Commons, Attribution Wavelab.be.