As they say "Right now, the technology is too inaccessible for non-technical consumers to find useful, and the majority are left asking, "What can I actually do with this?" It’s our job to change that."
LayerByLayer are realistic about the market. In an intelligent blog entry entitled "Is the Personal 3D Printing Revolution Slowing Down?", they point to research by respected AM industry analyst Wohlers Associates, which found that the growth rate of the personal 3D printer market for 2012 was significantly lower than the growth rate in 2011.
LayerByLayer are correct to point out the following:
- The 65,000 people that have so far purchased Personal 3D Printers didn't care about their reliability and capability limitations—they just wanted to play with a cool new toy. The next 65,000 people, however, will need to see true usefulness of the technology before they consider buying a printer.
- 2012 saw significant advancements in printer technology. Prices dropped, reliability improved, and layer heights decreased. But there are other factors preventing general consumers from using printers that haven’t been addressed—mainly, accessibility and functionality.
- The average consumer asks, “What can I do with a 3D printer?” Until we can give a good answer to this question, why should they want one?
- Computers weren't widely adopted until VisiCalc became available; printers won’t be adopted until using one is as easy as finding the exact 3D product you want and clicking “Print.” As long as printing involves personally designing an object, or downloading a file and messing with printer settings, no average consumer will ever want a printer in their home.
It will fascinating to see whether innovative services such as Layer By Layer can create the 'Killer Apps' that will persuade more consumers to want a Personal 3D Printer in their home.