Guestblog Tom Kurke: Attacking the 3D Printing Hype Cycle
In ten years we will 3D print our houses and have at least one 3D Printer at home. We all hear these stories, but what should we believe? Tom Kurke, COO of Geomagic, gives his view on the 3D printing hype.
No offense to Gartner, but I believe they’ve gotten it wrong in their assessments of 3D printing and 3D scanners in their ‘Hype Cycle‘ info graphics. Gartner concludes that both 3D printing and scanning are 5-10 years away from their ‘plateau of productivity.’ While it is certainly debatable when mass customization and the concept of a personal factory will be unlocked by the democratization of 3D capture and production technologies – these tools are being used productively, now, in a wide range of businesses.
It’s easy for a research analyst, writer, blogger, industry pundit or other predictor of ominous events to throw cold water on innovation and creativity. But the question remains, how does hype transition to a market- and game-changing shift that impacts the way people live and work?
Belief plays a big part.
No one can predict the future. Sometimes you just have to believe. Yes, the belief should be tempered with a dose of reality, but we should (really) believe nevertheless. The world would be a much more boring place without the dreamers and innovators who regularly reject reality and substitute their own creativity, drive, hope and belief.
History is littered with innovators and innovations that wouldn’t fit neatly into a Hype Cycle curve and wouldn’t give way to nearsighted individuals and companies blind to the changing world.
If you look at the history: the pace of change and innovation has only accelerated in recent years. But even innovators can get it wrong as you can read in the following examples:
- Personal Computers: Andy Grove (of Intel) thought it would be only good for storing recipes, and the irony that the PC would be the biggest consumer product, by far, for Intel.
- Printers: Another very interesting quote by marketeers back in the days “What an incredibly stupid idea – who is going to want to print things at home?”. I guess HP (and others) are glad they didn’t listen to market pundits who said home printers would never be a big market.
- Digital Camera: “I can’t imagine that the benefits of digital cameras outweigh the benefits and quality of film.” Kodak didn’t react quickly enough to consumer shift from film to digital camera solutions, and accordingly, missed a huge market opportunity that it could have pivoted to capitalize on, instead of trying to focus energies on defending its film consumables and processing business. Kodak declared bankruptcy earlier this year and the trustees have been selling its deep IP portfolio.
Sometimes explosive growth takes a convergence of technology and market acceptance. Sometimes price changes enable a new class of purchasers. Sometimes it is just blind luck. Sometimes the people promoting change just have to believe and convince others as well.
Sometimes explosive growth takes a convergence of technology and market acceptance. Sometimes price changes enable a new class of purchasers. Sometimes it is just blind luck. Sometimes the people promoting change just have to believe and convince others.
I do believe, however, that we are at unique place in time, a time in which technology, market acceptance and demand are converging to catalyze change in the 3D capture and 3D printing space, carrying the space down-market from current industrial use cases. In the future, design professionals, students and children will be able to easily take innovation and inspiration from the real articles and objects that surround them, mash them up, and create entirely new designs along with a new creation and innovation cycle. What we need is a simple-to-use, integrated end-to-end solution that allows people to easily capture, interact with, modify, manipulate and reproduce real-world 3D content. I believe we are not too far away.
Ultimately, I could be proven wrong in my belief that the democratization of reality-capture technologies, interaction tools and 3D printing devices will shift the market and change our very lifestyles beyond the manufacturing ecosystem that already profitably leverages these technologies.
But even if I’m wrong, I’ll still believe.