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The Pizza Comparison, or why HP 3D printers are pizza ovens


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Wow, this speaks to me on so many levels Joris. For one, I work at night as a pizza delivery expert as we are called at Domino's (I also drive a Civic). And for two I want to build myself an outdoor brick oven/grill. I agree with many of your points to a certain degree, but I must disagree on a few things. Yesterday, I went to the local super market, and got some microwave dinners (buy one get one woot) produced by Boston Market. Boston Market is a restaurant chain. Why would they make microwave dinners? What did the Microwave dinners do to the restaurant chains? Before the Microwave, if you wanted to eat, you had to prepare a dinner. Time consuming, pricey, and then you burn the roast. Or you could go out and eat, or order delivery. Less expensive, Still time consuming but no where near as much, and if your roast is burnt you send it back till it's right (and be polite so as not to get added ingredients). Then the Microwave comes out. For a dollar or so a person, you pop them in the microwave, 3 minutes later your sitting in front of the tv watching your favorite show eating hot on the outside frozen on the inside Salisbury steak. You don't care cause it took 3 minutes and you wanted to see if Lassy could get Timmy out of the well. So the Restaurants adapted. They provide better service, take out, tv's in every corner, and their own brand of microwave meals. Your comparison compares 3 methods that have been around for several years now. They have created there own niches. If a 4th niche comes along, it could swallow one or more of the other 3 or they'd have to adapt to stay alive. You have people right now using shapeways, that if a desktop 3D printer were available, they would jump ship in a heart beat to have their models on there desk today instead of 10 days, and cut out the middleman for shipping to customers. Shapeways would have to evolve. Maybe it will become just a market for people to come and download items to print to the HP's? If the 3D printer becomes feasible, and they find a market, it will affect shapeways.

And Joris, were you comparing Nike's to potato chips? tsk tsk, in our world of commercialism, you pay for demand. Everyone wants Nike's, everyone wants a Rolls Royce, so you find that price that people are willing to pay for them. If you look at a bag of Lays chips to a bag of super market brand. The lays will be twice the price. Why? More chips? no probably less. Better chips? can be, usually taste the same. Because the name on the bag. If you have "generics" I guarantee someone will say "ewww" regardless if they've had them before. You know the canned vegetables? Green Giant costs more then the super market brand. You know they come from the same processing plant? So what is that extra 50 cents a can for? To have that Green half naked giant on your can.
#1 Michael Williams on 2010-01-22 16:06 (Reply)

I agree completely. If tomorrow there would be a microwave version of a 3D printer: easy to use, applicable, fast, inexpensive etc. things would change for us. We'd have to go buy a bunch of them. And along with our other production processes and scale we'd be an easier and better solution for the community we cater to. Even if everyone was given a 3D printer tomorrow this would still apply. Everyone would have to be able to 3D model also and know how to design. Even with that scenario the infrastructure that we are building will still be very relevant. The Creators, Shops, model checking, community etc.

Also love the Green Giant comparison, this is of continual fascination to me. How much does unique cost? How can a Shop owner create a brand?
#1.1 Joris on 2010-01-24 10:55 (Reply)
Great. Now I'm hungry.
#2 Jeffrey Matthias (Homepage) on 2010-01-22 17:17 (Reply)
Michael and Joris both have valid points.
If there's a 3D printer on every desktop of course it will affect Shapeways. :-(
But not as much as we all think if, and this is a big if, the desktop 3D printers only print in plastic. :-)
When they start doing full colour, different materials like steel etc... then it will affect Shapeways. As printers that can do this already cost more than what even most 3D addicts can afford, I think we are panicking over nothing. A storm in a tea cup.
Time will tell and prove me wrong no doubt!
Now, where did I put that number for the pizza delivery place?
#3 Marc M on 2010-01-22 18:44 (Reply)

Exactly. I could have put it that way and saved everyone a lot of time, but where would the fun in that be?
#3.1 Joris on 2010-01-24 10:58 (Reply)
I don't think panic is the right word.

High end restaurants wouldn't sell nearly as much pizza if the Dominos of the world didn't sell the "low-end" version. Since all the products are slightly different, the only thing that is important is that the world's desire for pizza is built up. As long as the overall appetite is there, all of the "competing" products can thrive... leaving it up to the individual company to find their niche and connect with their market–something increasingly likely with worldwide communication.

Michael makes a good point about a new technology coming around and usurping the market except that once again, no one is even going to be looking for a new technology unless the current technology is seen to be profitable, and that will only happen when the overall market grows. And that is why ANY market growth from HP jumping into the 3D printing game is a big deal.

Joris, I like that you are actually longer-winded than I am.
#4 Jeffrey Matthias (Homepage) on 2010-01-22 18:56 (Reply)

There could always be two guys in a garage that come up with cold fusion or something out of left field. I would agree with you both on that.

Being long winded is a gift, especially in a twitterverse.
#4.1 Joris on 2010-01-24 11:01 (Reply)
I believe that an analogy more close to the subject at hand is:
- desktop printers
- publishing houses
- High end local copy shops
- (good quality, minimum 1 copy, democratic price books.) -> Shapeways business model.

I own a desktop printer/copier/scanner by HP. But I still get my portfolios printed at
I used to get it printed at a high end local copy shop, but that was until Blurb came to existence. I still use my desktop printer, I use Blurb and I still use my high end local copy shop when I need large good quality posters.
I have no business dealing with publishing houses though.
#5 Artur (Homepage) on 2010-01-22 20:48 (Reply)
Great analogy! I'm uncomfortable with your brevity. Good points only come in novels.
#5.1 Jeffrey Matthias (Homepage) on 2010-01-22 20:55 (Reply)
@arthur & Jeff,

I agree! The big difference with the regular paper printing industry though and why I had to resort to pizza is that this industry is already specialized and the companies that are currently doing well dominate their niches by being good at a very limited well scoped thing: printing annual reports, printing national newspapers etc. Right now in the 3D printing game people are still trying to be everything to all men. This is think is damaging and inefficient for the industry. I hoped that by using a off the wall but more or less correct analogy I could make that clear to other people in the industry. I thought, "we should be like the printing industry, stodgy, old & struggling" would not be a good message.
#5.1.1 Joris on 2010-01-24 11:09 (Reply)
Plus it's more delicious.
# Anonymous on 2010-01-24 11:44 (Reply)
Interesting analogy. You certainly have a few points there, but as every analogy it also has some weaknesses ;-) I think the weakness of the analogy is, if Shapeways wants to be Domino's they would have to deliver the prints as fast or quicker than the home made variety, but offer less quality. Shapeways trumps on the convenience factor, as Domino's, it's quite cheap, but it takes a lot longer to get the print, and they're better quality than what you'd get at home.
I don't have the luxury of overview over the market, all I have is my own experience. I would say the HP printer will mainly help some people to optimise for (time*money). In other words, Shapeways gives you great quality at a good price, but it takes 10 days. There are lots of 3D printing services that will do it over night, for at least 10 times the price. If you buy an entry level FDM from Stratasys you can do it "at home" over night, and the cost in consumables will be a little bit less than Shapeways - but you'd have to do an awful lot of printing to justify the $30,000 you spent. The Makerbot is much cheaper than anything else, also in consumables as you're not worried about wrecking the machine with "non-approved" materials - but the build quality is nowhere near as good as professional machines. So where does the HP probably fit in? Most likely it will do "pretty good quality", in probably one material, maybe with colour, and cost about as much as the MakerBot. But the plastic "ink" cartridges will cost more than a spool of plastic for open source printers. Who will buy it? Initially gear freaks who don't care about the economics of it all, and people who do a lot of low-cost prototyping and want their stuff quickly. I think There's be a lot of the latter using Shapeways, and they might start using their HP printers for prototype version 1-25... but then maybe print the final models at Shapeways because they look better and are made of steel. Similar to photographers who print some photos quickly at home, but get the large format posters done at a lab.
Another analogy: PCB making. At my workplace we used to send designs off to get them made (and still do). The choices are a) huge setup fees but 2-4 days turn around or b) quite cheap but takes 3 weeks. Quality is good in both cases. We now also have a PCB milling machine that carves circuits out of copper plated boards. A 2-layer board can be done in as little as 1 hour, or 3-5 hours with through-plating. This means that if you want to try out a quick idea, you can draw a schematic in the morning, make the board, and test on the same day. That's a speed-up of a factor of 7-10. However, for larger numbers of boards or complex designs we would still send the board off, as it's too much hassle to do it on the proto mill, and the quality isn't quite as reliable.

Long winded story cut short - I think quite a few current Shapeways users (the "power users") would probably want an affordable desktop printer, as it's a lot quicker and maybe a little cheaper than ordering elsewhere. I think they will still order from Shapeways as well for high-end outputs. I agree though that as there will be more interest in 3D printing there will be more customers for everyone - there will be more easy-to-use software, more download portals for 3D models, more ideas what one can do with 3D printing, more demand, etc. There's a lot more non-customers than customers currently, so every conversion will benefit everybody. It's a bit like the music sharing paradox - i.e. in Australia CD sales increased as broadband was introduced and people started sharing their music which is easily explained by that people regained interest in music and started buying more CDs on top of downloading.
#6 Felix on 2010-01-24 02:46 (Reply)
"Great analogy! I'm uncomfortable with your brevity. Good points only come in novels. "
(Jeffrey Matthias)

ok then...

Chapter 2

It was still cold and quite dark as he woke up, but he could see the first signs of sunset. Currently only the highest peaks caught a glimpse of early sunlight, but soon, as the sun would continue its inevitable rise, rays of light would gradually lift the valleys out of the darkness, awakening the large cities and villages below to a new, bright day. ...

Or in other words - I think there are some parallels to the often cited "long tail". Maybe it's not going to be an over night revolution, but a gradual shift. Let's say there are 100 people who can spend $1 million per year on 3d printing, 10,000 spend $10,000, and 1 million people would spend $100. All the HP printer will continue the gradual shift from "expensive for few customers" to "cheap for many customers". Similarly Shapeways will become more affordable for large models or strange materials, and everyone will slowly adapt as more and more people start using it. Until some day, maybe, most house holds will have some sort of 3D printer. Even if it's just for printing food according to downloadable pizza recipes :-)
(tried to add link but didn't work - search for "cornucopia food 3d printer")
#6.1 Felix on 2010-01-24 03:18 (Reply)

The analogy is indeed far from perfect. We would be higher quality but slower than in home.
I think the HP price point would be much more in the 5,000-15,000 range. The large format group with their sales people and things like that are looking for high margins and sales values, does a device of a 1000 matter to them given their cost structure? Not immediately I think.
"but then maybe print the final models at Shapeways because they look better and are made of steel. Similar to photographers who print some photos quickly at home, but get the large format posters done at a lab." this is exactly how I see our role. Also to allow you to sell worldwide easily and efficiently without going to the post office or waiting for UPS or having to do customer service.
#6.2 Joris on 2010-01-24 11:15 (Reply)

We heart the long tail and this is more or less how I see the market developing also.
#6.2.1 Joris on 2010-01-24 11:18 (Reply)
Ever seen the comic book "Transmetropolitan"? They deal with the idea of a home appliances like this fairly realistically (more so than Star Trek, but then we don't really see "home" use in ST).

In the comic, nearly everyone has an appliance called a "maker". It's a nanobot factory about the same size and shape as a dishwasher, capable of assembling most anything from raw elements (and disassembling as well, which is where it gets it's raw material: you feed it trash). They're about as common and taken for granted as microwaves.

The appliance comes with stock templates for a variety of objects and foodstuffs, and has an internet link so it can automatically update it's database or search for requested templates it doesn't specifically have. Online businesses sell licensed files for people to print out objects they purchase online, like how music and video files are sold through Amazon or Itunes today.

Most people don't design objects for their makers to print, unless you count things like dictating a cocktail recipe into it verbally, they just request or buy what they want, and if a template isn't available, oh well. Just like with the many products today an individual can make for themselves, but most people just don't have the inclination, much less the know how.

You can design templates for it yourself, if you want to, but this may or may not involve jailbreaking the machine (it's not made clear). There are file sharing networks for homemade templates, and even black and gray markets for templates of illegal or proprietary objects/substances.

I think that's pretty close to how a home 3D printer scheme would work in reality, market wise. It's also a good model IMO for what a 3D printer would have to be capable of in order to be useful as an everyday home appliance. You would need a printer that could not only print in a wide variety of materials, but which could also print objects containing multiple materials as a single unit. You'd need a machine that could in an hour or less put an object containing finely detailed glass, steel, teflon, polystyrene, and chocolate components in the users hand with no assembly required.

I think that'll definitely happen eventually, but not for a while yet, at least. By the end of the century though, maybe even mid-century, I do think we'll start seeing home appliances like this in some form. At that point, commercial outfits will be more about offering things the home units can't do. At first that will probably be materials the home units can't handle or don't have access to, later probably mostly objects which are too big for home units to print, even in parts.
#7 mnpazan on 2010-01-25 10:46 (Reply)
I have an idea, I'm going to patent the 3D all in one. Scanning, faxing, and printing of 3D models.
#8 Michael Williams on 2010-01-25 14:26 (Reply)
A real question with this HP 3D printer... Will they be open about it? Not likely! They aren't really open about much. Remember, they are the company that put chips into ink cartridges so they are more difficult to refill.

Having a big printer player in the market IS a validation of our beliefs that 3DP is appealing to the mass market audience.
#9 mark (Homepage) on 2010-01-25 16:45 (Reply)

What do you mean be "open about it", open as in Open Source?
#9.1 Joris on 2010-01-25 16:50 (Reply)
Your opening statement was a jumble of incoherent sentences and you lost me there. I didn't bother to finish this article (though I would have liked to), because the prospect of further syntax had me alarmed that I was going to be left feeling as if I wanted my time back. Remember the greatest rule of writing: KISS (keep it simple stupid -
#10 Brent (Homepage) on 2010-01-25 22:38 (Reply)
Thanks a lot for this brilliant write up. Keep the amazing work coming.
#11 electricians (Homepage) on 2010-01-26 23:43 (Reply)
IMHO there is nothing worse than frozen pizza. Salty and made from the cheapest ingredients. I would not even get close to that stuff if it would be dog food. Why ingest garbage?

Self made pizza.... I don't have the equipment for it. Pizza needs that high heat. I would feel bad heating an hour like a mad man till the oven is nearly melting just to create one pizza.

Ordering pizza is my deal. I get what I want every time. Same quality, same ingredients. Predictable. I pick up the phone and 20 minutes later I have my pizza.

I do not have to deal with the procurement of the parts, nor with any other drama involved. Did
the dough rise well that day? Is the ham ordered? Is the oven working? No worries. Insert coin, get pizza.

My life is to short to milk the tree's, vulcanize the rubber, mill an engine on my lathe and mill, paint the bus, and then drive it myself to work a few years later.

I want my idea cast, and then worry what to do with it and maybe sell it. I want a clean break between production and design and marketing. If I have to do everything myself I will fail as everybody else does who tries it.

The art of making things is also an art of communication and the art of delegation.

The urge to do everything yourself is a side effect of this self centered and ultra individual society. That urge drives individuals down the wrong path.

One has to lean back, design and virtually create. Be the artist! Then have an artisan take over and wrangle the bit's into a physical instance of the artistic thought.

Being the artist and the artisan at the same time is possible, but limits the artist significantly in productivity and output. And it leads to starving artisans...

Best of luck creating everybody
#12 Rainer on 2010-02-12 14:26 (Reply)
Have to disagree with Ranier in a few ways.

His is the right train of thought for a business, but not for a hobby.

I make my own pizza. It takes a little more effort, but it's not anything close to the crippling ordeal Ranier paints it to be (you can tell he's not speaking from experience). The advantage is that you get a pizza which is both significantly higher quality and more customizable than what you get from take out.

Plus It's as enjoyable and gratifying as eating the finished pizza.

This follows in art as well. Ranier's argument only works if money is your only ultimate goal. The market for personal fabricators, and indeed the entire DIY cultural concept, is based on personal individual enjoyment and freedom. It'd based on catering to personal hobby-like interests, not turning individuals into small businesses.

We can't project the quality and economy of tomorrows printer tech. If a desktop printer can produce high enough quality work, then there's no reason why someone at home can't. One of the advantages of DIY is being able to produce something superior in quality to the mass manufactured equivalent due to cost and complexity.

Even within a business, it's a bit daft to suggest that designers shouldn't be at all involved in production. A process in which the designer has no awareness or understating of how things are being manufactured will not reliably produce manufactureable designs. You will waste time and money getting things sent back and forth for revision, or even waste time on things which are outrightly undoable either technically or economically. Encouraging cross discipline interests makes the whole process more efficient.

And the idea that the DIY impulse is a detriment to society is laughable. Would you go down to the park and ridicule the kids playing football by saying they should stay home and watch the pros play? Assuming a equal level of quality, would your GF be more impressed by an engagement ring you bought, or a ring you made? Are building contractors really suffering from people who like to do their own repairs, and what about all the jobs and business opportunities created by a DIY culture? Walk down the isle of a Home Depot sometime and ask yourself how many people would be out of work if all such places dissapeared. Not just the retail employees, but the manufactures and distributors for everything you're seeing on the shelves. How many different people & companies are involved in the manufacture and sale of, say, a cordless drill? How many of those sold do you think are being bought by contractors?

I suspect Ranier''s attempting to objectively justify his own personal disinterest in production.
#13 mnpazan on 2010-02-16 22:56 (Reply)
Objet Geometries has just announced an extension to its trade-in program. They're offering up to $80,000 credit for an older Objet 3D printer as a trade-in when buying one of their Connex multi-material 3D printers or a newer Eden machine. And, they're offering some incentives for trade-ins of non-Objet 3D printers. Worth checking it all out –
#14 Chris Frostt (Homepage) on 2010-02-17 11:19 (Reply)

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