FRED WILSON VC, Union Square Ventures, often recites his rule of thumb of social internet services. It is the 100-10-1 rule. He sees with social internet services that on average 100% of users consume, 10% of users interact and 1% of users actually create.
So how does this apply to Personal Fabrication? As a social service, there are many options for Personal Fabrication. I am thinking of:
sharing of designs between designers
making designs available for fabrication to others
cooperative design of products between designers and users
product configurators made by designers for users
online creation tools for users which interact with all the above
All these options can make personal fabrication a social activity. When you apply the 100-10-1 rule of thumb, the opportunities for scaling such a service become immediately clear. As far as I know there are no exact figures available on how many 3D modelers / product designers there are in the world. But let's assume there are 5 million of them. That would turn social fabrication into a 500M users opportunity. That is Facebook and Google territory. Just imagine 50M users interacting on personal fabrication and the effects it can have on product design and how we design products. This is a very significant opportunity. Of course, the big caveat is that not all 3D modelers / product designers are interested in social fabrication. Maybe only 10% or less. That still leaves a 50M opportunity.
I do wonder what will happen to this ratio. I think it will change over time. I have no data available how this ratio looks like per demographic, but I can imagine that young people are much more engaged to create and interact than older generations. Now when they get older, start their careers and families, I can imagine that some of them drop off. But in general I expect that the creators and interactors groups will become a larger portion of the total users.
Duann, isn't there one glaring omission from your list and that is the 'consumer/user' who can now access digital designing tools as some of these are not only free but also very easy to use to create things for themselves. I am sure Shapeways cater on the 3D printing side for many of these creative 'consumer/users' who are creating from scratch.
And Thingieverse is an example of a repository for sharing between 'consumer/users', user/designer.
Be interesting to know the ratio of this group to the groups you have listed and whether this would change (increase/decrease) in the future.
Actually it is in the list under "online creation tools for users which interact with all the above". Maybe the ratio will change, but lots of social services are easy to use in itself and that is where they see this ratio. I think that a lot of users are less interested in the creation or modification aspect of content and rather are passive in their usage. Now if passive means they just buy what is out there, it is not bad in itself.
Of course Shapeways mission is to enable anybody to do personal fabrication. We do not know how it will pan out. Maybe the ratio will change or maybe not. Let's see.
We believe the 100-10-1 rule will be broken for 3D printing and personal fabrication.
Let’s define the steps as 100% browse 3D printed goods, 10% buy 3D printed goods, and 1% make 3D printed goods.
First, the 10% will likely increase to 50% or 75% as the industry grows and buying a 3D printed good is as seamless as buying a SKU at Walmart.com or Walmart retail. This would be further aided if Amazon, for example, gets into the business of selling 3D printed goods.
Second, the 1% will likely increase to 10% with a combination of globalization and design software becoming easier
Globalization: 3D design of consumable goods will become a mainstream profession for people in developing countries, especially India and China, if there is an efficient marketplace for them to sell their designs.
Software enablement: How many people use Photoshop? Only professionals and hobbyists. But how many people use MS Paint? I would wager a decent size of the population who have computers have dabbled in MS Paint. If 3D design software is made to be as easy as MS Paint to create real, valuable 3D printed objects, the creation will increase. We are already seeing steps in that direction with Autodesk 123D and other tools.
The implication is that not only are there more designers and more purchasers, but a greater volume of 3D printed goods purchased, making the overall size of this industry quickly a multi-billion opportunity in the next five years.