3D printing is real, innovative and complex.
Real - viable in nearly all markets, whether you buy a 3D printer or use 3D printing provided as a service.
Innovative - totally new designs and revised designs enable you to produce items that cannot be made with any other technology and more.
Complex - 3D printing is not plug and play as digital 2D printing is.
The industry as a whole does not fully understand 3D printing, having only heard the general media’s hype and having been misled into thinking that material extrusion is the only 3D printing technology and plastic is the only printable material.
In fact, most had not considered the impact that 3D printing will have on their business - or the need for IT to support and to help enable 3D printing.
However, many ICT industry personnel work at firms that have 3D printers, have children who are designing and 3D-printing items, and are supporting 3D printers in local schools.
With this in mind, here is a sampling of the comments that I’ve heard so far:
- Our hospital 3D-prints models for surgeons to hold, practice on and plan their surgeries
- Our ships - at sea for four or five months - are equipped with metal 3D printers on levelling systems that produce repair parts
- We use 3D printers to prototype computer peripherals
- The university has a lab with several printers with different technologies for student use
- The school my fourth-grade daughter attends has three 3D printers for student use
- We are developing a county-wide program to bring 3D printers to local schools, especially in disadvantaged areas
- Our county is spending $US250,000 to equip local libraries with maker spaces equipped with 3D printers, a “Garage Band” studio and more
- Our 3D lenses enable smartphones to capture images that can be used to create 3D-printable models
- We have a production hub equipped with 3D printers, as well as a handful of stores where items are 3D-printed on-site
- Our insurance claims people are looking at 3D-printing replacement parts instead of paying to replace the entire damaged or stolen item
- Did you know that people are 3D printing mechanical hands for children? That there is a 3D printer on the space station? That they are 3D-printing buildings? And organs?
- My 12-year-old, who is building a lot of cool stuff already, keeps asking me for a 3D printer
- My 16-year-old has been asking for a 3D printer. His birthday’s coming up and I just decided that I’m going to get him one!
The industry has a universal sense of excitement about 3D printing and its potential, at work, at home and in the community, tinged with uncertainty about when that will actually happen.
I closed a recent 3D printing presentation about how to prepare for the disruption caused by 3D printing with this slide from e-Nabling the Future:
These children (above) and many, many more around the world, in developed and developing countries - have benefited from an inexpensive mechanical hand made by family members, friends or volunteers. 3D printing is life-altering.
These children are coming into the workforce - and they will want to know whether you have a 3D printer. They will become consumers - and will expect the personalisation and performance that comes with 3D printers.
3D printing is real, it enables innovation and it is complex. Ready or not, 3D printing will disrupt your organisation.
Are you ready?
By Pete Basiliere - Research Analyst, Gartner