Wednesday, 13 November 2013

There is no such thing as "3D Printing"

We've said it before, and we'll say it again. There is no such thing as "3D Printing". What there is instead are over thirty different additive manufacturing (layer by layer) processes (the majority of which oriented in the field of rapid prototyping). They share little in common.

We listed some of these in our article "Hype and Hope in 3D Printing". We also talked about the 3D Printing industry as being a set of "Niches within a Niche".

These realities have significant implications. 

Without a standard 3D Printing platform there won't be an exponential growth curve as occurred with the PC revolution leading to today's cloud computing giants. Yet such is the hype generated by the 3D Printing providers and the media (primarily) that even our most respected AM industry analysts are somewhat embarrassed. As a result, they are finding themselves in the unenviable position of having to 'play down' expectations when they are invited to speak on-stage at industry events.

If you have not already done so, I do recommend watching three informative presentations from TCT Show + Personalize '13 in a track called 'Mythbusting 3D Printing'. The presentations are both funny and revealing.

Firstly, Joris Peels compares the hype around 3D printing to claims for a 'new' but very very old technology called Rotary Desktop Fabrication (RDF):

Todd Grimm lists a raft of new product announcements, but also sets a tone of caution for their incremental impact:

And finally, Phil Groves explains why "3D printing is NOT going to be as big as the Internet", despite claims to the contrary from industry leader 3D Systems.

There is hype and hope for 3D Printing. Next up, our view on what could be happening. Watch this space.

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