Preamble: Few month ago I entered into amazing world of 3D printing & imaging.. Of course I knew it years before as digital printing professional; visited 3D printers manufacturing companies and held in home 3D souvenirs granted by colleagues. Just it took some time to get strategic decision to go into 3D for the next 20 years of my carrier. As fresh entrant into 3D market I paid attention that most of new 3D companies,especially in consumer segment funded by crowd rather than by Venture Capital. It was critical for me to understand why Public like and fund 3D printing and imaging more than Investors so these are few my findings but first let’s look into Desktop printers that made fantastic success in the last 20 years and try to understand whether 3D going to repeat it way and success? Or probably 3D printing has its own unique way?
For My Dear Lazy Readers 🙂 – my answer is Sharing model like Lyft/Uber going to win 3D print consumer market. That’s it , you shouldn’t continue to read if you do not need prove points.
Success of home desktop printers. In 2013 was sold 106,000,000 home printers according to IDC research http://www.statisticbrain.com/ink-jet-laser-computer-printer-sales-statistics/ This story continue 2o years, >1 Billion home desktop printers were sold in total and became natural part of home/office landscape. What are the major reasons for desktop success?
1. Simplicity – connected to any computer user get required result in one-two click. It always (almost) A3 simple paper sheet and same ink in replaceable cartridge. Just 2 technologies and I bet even my technology advanced readers could not explain what’s better for them -laser or inkjet.
2. Clear and sustainable user need to print. Documents, school work, presentations,culinary secrets, maps- until recently it was no alternative and printers worked like a crazy. I remember in the office it were hundreds pages in output tray every day, today it close to zero, so Trees are saved 🙂
3. Reasonable price & reasonable quality. Indeed situation even better, today user get superior quality and price per copy went down thanks to 3rd party ink manufacturers that recognized – water based ink for desktop is not a rocket science. To conclude: simplicity and speed in getting required printed pages, daily user need in printing together with reasonable price and quality made home printing so popular. Since beginning of 90th till now it excellent business. In particular: biggest printers manufacturer and versatile company like HP still get 37% of Operational revenue from printers & consumables. Now let’s see if these basic requirements could be met by 3D home printers, we just start in opposite direction from price & quality through customer need to simplicity/complexity issues 1. Reasonable price & reasonable quality. Every month with entrance each new player price for printers go down and became affordable, at least for people in developed world. Priced fro $250 to $1500 , permanently improve speed (indeed how many 3D object you need for your household?) and quality 3D printers progressing fast. Early entrance of 3rd party filament suppliers should take material price down as well. So we can check V. These are few excellent samples of 3D printed objects.
2. Clear and sustainable user need to print. It bit complex for me, probably you my Dear Reader can help? What we need to print everyday 3D in home? Broken parts? Thanks to God, we need not often. Toys? Until it personalized dolls with Grandma and Grandpa faces you will prefer to buy it. Rings? And if you want ring from Copper or Silver instead strong and flexible Plastic (usually under this marketing name mean to be ABS material)? You need to buy another printer. So these are many nice and lovely things to print in3D but let;s be realistic – you need it one-two times per month maximum. Do you want to keep another gadget onyour table that takes place and used not often? For the most of people answer will be NO.
3. Simplicity This is what matter! Complex product for consumer has from little to zero chance for success and creating 3D images and 3D printing is still very complex today. First you need 3D scanner that cost from $500 to $15,000. 2nd you need all S/W that include a lot of manual features because initially was designed for professionals and hobbyists. 3rd -you can do it when computer and scanner in the same place, e.g. at home/office only. These are some trials to create H/W add-on for mobile but still it too complex for average user.
Let’s presume you overpass all these challenges and send image to print. Are you aware that is 8 3D printing technologies and tens of materials to print? So you need to understand its compatibility and ensure that your home printer support it. But usually its not -most of printers support 1-2 materials and just one technology so you can do only 20-30% of object you really need? Do you plan to add another printer to you home? I really doubt. Even biggest 3D Print Service Providers in the World unable to became “one stop shop” due to variety of technologies and materials involved. That’s why 2 biggest 3D printers manufacturers 3D Systems and Stratasys invested hundreds millions of $ to create big Service bureau that serve all requested for 3D printing
But let’s presume that you smart user and go beyond average one. You in advance choose right printer that print on plastic/metal you need. What about finishing? Most of complex objects use supportive material that should be cleaned by water, cut by knife, some materials require finishing like varnish. Am I forgot something? Are you still with me? This I add unhealthy air pollution as result of heating plastics at home. Popular ABS and PLA materials release millions of particles and some specialist compare it with smoking at home.
THIS IS A REASON why only 56,000 units was sold in 2013 according to Gardner research, big part of units went to enterprise. Just to remind in 2013 -was sold 106,000,000 desktop regular printers. Most dare forecast predict that 3D printers will be shipped 1,000,000 a year in 2025 and its nothing.
That’s why Venture Capitalist get cold feet when asked to fund another 3D printer creation. In the end of day they are smart kids in the class.
Does it mean that people do not need so much 3D printing? They need it badly! People need 3D output, they do not need 3D printers at home and it request another business and operational model for consumer than models applied to the mentioned above desktop printers.
The right model for 3D consumer printing is:
A. Simple and accessible 3D imaging tool (biggest gap for now) It should be similar for picture making. Do you remember what photo shooting on mobile did for whole industry?
B. One-click order of 3D print and fast logistic around
This is what try to do in 3Dome company – to simplify process of image creating and make it one click process, avoid any manual work, raise the speed to seconds because we live in the instant World and bring it to the mobile as an ultimate place where consumer located 24/7.