Designer Banlu Kemiyatorn
has a lot of great designs in his Shop. My personal
favorites are his Bracelets. Each of them is a co-creator and you can
customize the inner diameter of the bracelet. Bracelet
Number 6 looks very modern to me. I also love Bracelet
Number 9 and the mega spiky Bracelet Number 3.
They're high tech without being cold, if that makes sense.
He designed it and printed it weeks before it came out. Some friends quickly bought an Ipad in the States and brought it to Finland. Pekka was the able to test the plug holes and the buttons to see if the 3D print & his design were correct.
There were some issues with his initial design but he corrected them and now he is able to put an Ipad compatible accessory on the market worldwide. Pekka has the product design skill, he prototypes using us and then we provide him with a scalable manufacturing infrastructure so he can sell a product worldwide while we do the shipping production and all other things boring. You know what, the more I think about it the more I am beginning to believe that there might be something to this whole 3D printer and 3D printing hype after all. Pekka's 3D printed case for the Ipad cost $50 and you can get one here.
From today until the 14th of March we will be offering you Alumide as a 3D printing material. If enough people like it (and buy it) we will then decide to keep it for you. Whystler, Chris and many others have been asking for Alumide in the forums so here it is.
Alumide is White, Strong & Flexible with Aluminum dust mixed in. The material looks space aged and has a higher heat resistance that regular plastics. Its melting temperature is above 172 Celsius It costs $1.59 per cubic centimeter(plus $1.50 start up costs per model). The material is brittle and less flexible than White, Strong & Flexible. We intended it to be a good Maker material for projects such as Arduino cases and RC Helicopters but after testing it and seeing it the material would seem to be fun for all sorts of other models also.The pictures below are for Bill's Arduino case model.
It feels smoother than White, Strong & Flexible and up close looks like it came from space. It could be part of a meteorite or a chunk of alien technology that fell off of a space ship. And Alien technology for $1.59 per cubic CM, thats a bargain. Update: as per Kristopher's request we've created a material page for Alumide here.
So why have I been spending every minute of my free time cooking bioplastic? Basically the idea is: make a biodegradable plastic in your own home. This will potentially be of big benefit for desktop 3D printing, personal production and also in reducing fossil fuel consumption and one's carbon footprint. Make a material with easily obtainable biological products that you can in turn use to make lots of things. If we're dreaming we can also then perhaps make a material that enables you the consumer to recycle the consumer products you make in your own home at home. I tried to test and replicate a number of recipes and also show you what results you can achieve by cooking bioplastics in the home, right now.
So lets say you're on the move and get a tweet from a friend that they've just added something to Thingyverse. Or someone tells you that this one spur gear right for your project can be downloaded from the Shapeways 3D parts database, only you're walking around. What do you do? Well from now on you can download the Netfabb STL viewer on your Iphone. It is free. You can point it at a URL and it will download the STL and let you see it while you are out and about. Using the Iphone's touch pad you can spin and rotate your models while looking at them from all sides. You can pinch to zoom in and I think its generally more intuitive to use than a PC STL viewer. Check out the video of this fun free tool below or download it on the App Store.
Bruce Sterling is a noted sci fi author, futurologist & speaker. As well as being an award winning author and one of the founders of the cyberpunk movement he is an early and constant booster of Augmented Reality technology and coined the word Spime. Spimes are pieces of technology that know where they are and can reveal their entire history to you. He is also behind a project that hopes to document dead media, founded a green design movement, loves Bollywood movies, is a hacker in the original sense and you really should read his Wired blog Beyond the Beyond.
Joris Peels: I was wondering if at one point you would be interested in doing an interview about 3D printing/the
Bruce Sterling: Well, man, all I can tell you is that I'm hanging out at a monster science event with labs-on-a-chip and 3d biofactories.
Joris Peels: Sounds good, are there any jet packs?
This video is awesome. You can make your own bioplastic. Starch, glycerine, vinegar and water. 7 parts water, 1 vinegar, .5 glycerine and 1.5 parts starch. You heat the mixture up while stirring. You can then flatten it and it will turn into a sheet of bioplastic. You can even add your own colors to it. The sheet can then be laser cut. You can make plastic and then laser cut it. Wow? I've been watching this video for 20 minutes now over and over again. Guess what I'll be doing this weekend? More than a little fascinated. Thank you Lasern!
Shapeways Community Member Andrew Plumb is also known as Clothbot. He is doing some pretty amazing things with wearable electronics, integrating fabrics and robotics, with his Makerbot and on Shapeways. You can check out his site here or follow him on twitter here.
Joris Peels: What is a clothbot?
Andrew Plumb: Short answer: A cyborg teddy bear! (Cue the Akira nightmares.) Longer answer: A robot needs to play well with its surroundings. In a household or office space that means bumping into things and people, surviving frequent encounters with fluidic space, etc. The real world is messy. I could spend my time waterproofing a standard tin-can robot, hammering out dents, adding proximity sensors and patching holes in the walls, or I could take a different approach. Clothbot is about robotic or cybernetic elements integrated comfortably into our surroundings and on our person. Making conventional printed circuit boards (PCB) is messy, requires toxic materials to fabricate, and the end product is quite rigid. When your "board" is a piece of cloth and electrical conductor is thread, you don't even need molten solder to connect elements into a useful piece of active circuitry. Power up the computerized embroidery machine (I don't have one yet) and you have a tool to build flexible, multilayered designs in no time!
Andrew Plumb: In the beginning, Bre Pettis needed a button so he makerbotted one. I asked myself, how do you make a great idea like Makerbot-printable
clothing buttons better? Why, make them Lego Compatible! To encourage others to explore the mashup potential I made the design
source available under a simple Creative Commons - By license.
Now, a Makerbot is great for printing out fabricated objects (I call
them fabjects) near the size of a cupcake, hence the product name
Cupcake CNC. However, as the design dimensions approach the 0.5mm
diameter aperture of the extruder nozzle, the resulting fabjects get
rough. My MakerBot prototype gave me enough confidence in the
soundness of my basic design to place that first order with Shapeways.
Getting back to the clothbot idea, I
could have used press-fasteners to add, remove and reposition parts but
they tend to be bulky and short each other out if you don't back them
with something more rigid. I could have used more conventional PCB
sockets, which would work but would look out-of-place in every-day
wear. Turning a button into a socket or touch-sensor hides the
function until it's needed pretty well and allows for more whimsy in
the design without resorting to spinning bow ties.
Andrew Plumb: I've dabbled with soft circuits (like those Mouna's electroniccrafts.org page) on and off for years but it's only in the last year that I've really focused on pulling it all together. Ideas are easy; implementation takes discipline.
Joris Peels: Why are you so fascinated by organic things & technology?
Andrew Plumb: On one hand, technology is what I do for work and play. I'm an electrical engineer by trade, helping my co-workers design integrated circuits (ICs). On the other hand, natural organisms adapt to their surroundings by way of simple pressures of competition, cooperation and environment. Organic technologies are those that integrate well into our tech-augmented lives. Sharp edges are confrontational; edgeless surfaces rock and roll with the flow. Sometimes you need confrontation - try trimming your nails without sharp edges - but for the most part you want comfort at your finger-tips and on your person.
You've been involved with wearables for a long time...whats a wearable?
To me, wearables computing, electronics, mechatronics are about mind- and body-enhancing technologies that meet us half-way between automating our tedious routines and amplifying our life experiences. It's a bit of a paradox really, a blend of those technologies that disappear into the background (taking pictures, recording sounds for future review, GPS coordinates, simple biometrics) and those that immerse you in a fully augmented reality (hands-free headsets, head-mount optics filtering and amplifying your vision, reactive clothing, exoskeletal robotics, real-time translation). Striking the right balance at the right time is a challenge.
What is the dream of wearables?
I'm not sure... I've amassed quite a collection of head-mount displays, data gloves, embedded computers and chording keyboards over the years chasing dreams, but I have integrated very few of them into my every-day activities. I don't like being anchored to a desk, but there are times when I find myself spread across two or three monitors deeply immersed in data for hours. The simple augmented reality apps that are starting to appear on iPhone and similar platforms offer hints at what's possible, but it still feels like peaking through keyholes. Virtual Reality (VR) systems from fifteen years ago felt more immersive because your hands were free and head directly tracked. Over the years I've drifted to a more general pervasive, ambient computing approach. ...Ask me again in another five years. :-)
How do you like your Makerbot?
Loving it! I had been tracking Fab@Home and RepRap projects for a while but the barriers to entry (sourcing materials, tools and availability of my time) were such that I didn't jump into them right from the start. When MakerBot Industries appeared with all the pieces in a convenient kit form, I pounced and landed up with MakerBot Number Nine (see http://clothbot.com/wiki/MakerBotNumberNine) from the first batch. It's been particularly fun being involved in bootstrapping the community from the beginning. As each new batch has come online the former-newbies have been pitching in answers to the more common FAQs and taking on wiki editing roles, leaving those of us early-batchers with more time to take deep dives into the larger set of reprap development activities. In the larger ecosystem of rapid prototyping technologies, I think of my Cupcake as a "bone maker". It's great for prototyping ideas and making the scaffolding around which to wrap skins with more finish. Being able to take a design from drawing to prototype in less than a day is awesome! When the raw material costs are so low though, being able to tweak and reprint a design ad infinitum can be a bit of a curse. It takes time to learn when good is good enough. Using Shapeways has helped impose some discipline on my own design process.
What is Shapeways doing right? What are we doing wrong?
The Right? Simply put, the breadth of fabrication technologies you carry. You provide us individuals with access to manufacturing processes normally reserved for large institutions and people with deep pockets. I'm really looking forward to seeing how my first stainless steel extruder nozzle experiment turns out! The Wrong/Needs Improvement? Just the usual list of technical gripes: - I can't preview my store front and individual items as a visitor (anonymous or logged in) would see it. - Get licensing hooks (CC, GPL, etc) in place; I know you're working on it. - I haven't quite figured out how the star rating is supposed to work from the seller's side. For example, one of my Clover Connectors has been rated 3/5 but I haven't even received my own sample print to check against. Are they rating the design based on the rendering or because they got their fabricated version faster than mine?
Do you know of a recyclable 3D printing material?
The only recyclable 3D printing materials I know of are in the abstract
sense. As long as the printing process is reversible, it should be
easy to recycle. For example, wax can be re-melted, glass can be
ground up and re-fused, some metal alloys (e.g. electrical solder) can
be reclaimed and reused. Even ABS could be melted and extruded back
into RepRap/Makerbot compatible filament. The developments made by the Open3DP project are particularly fascinating to follow.
Sean Dabbs has come up with some fun Shapeways Co-Creators. "You as a Gnome" turns you into a gnome. You upload photographs of yourself or a loved one and these will be sculpted into a gnome by Sean. The 25 cm gnome starts at $209. The picture below is of a hand painted gnome and this would be more expensive.
You can also choose to be turned into an action figure. Upload pictures of your face, select your body type, choose the clothes you want to wear and Sean will turn you into an action figure!!
Dutch creative agency KesselsKramer has used 3D printing & stop motion to create an opening an closing sequence for Dutch children's TV show Het Klokhuis. The apples used for the stop motion sequence were 3D printed by Shapeways. The apples were made using our White, Strong & Flexible material and were so happy to have played a small part in this great video! The video is directed by John Kelly and you can read more about the people that made the video here. Check out the videos below.
Mani Zamani is a Design Academy Graduate, Shapeways Community member and collectible robot designer. He previously made the Revoltech Rosekeeper robot & the Samurai Poet which were already amazing. The RetroroBo however defies belief.
The entire robot is 3D printed, including the joints. The man inside the robot is made out of White, Strong & Flexible and the rest out of Stainless Steel. It is hand painted and I am actually at a loss for words. Mani's Shapeways Shop is here and you can see more on the forum. The video of the robot is below.
Shapeways interviews Bre Pettis (on the right), the Maker in Chief over at Makerbot Industries. Makerbot Industries makes an affordable desktop 3D printer and we and a lot of other people are very excited about them and their Cupcake CNC. We asked Bre about the future of Makerbot Industries and desktop 3D printing.
Joris Peels: What's a Makerbot?
Bre Pettis: A MakerBot is an affordable, open source 3D printer.
Joris Peels: And a Cupcake is a Makerbot?
Bre Pettis: Yes, the Cupcake is our flagship personal fabrication device! It makes things that are a little bigger than a cupcake!
Joris Peels: Who is the team behind Makerbot Industries?
Bre Pettis: Adam (Adam Mayer) has his head in the software, Zach has his hands on production, I'm making waves and we all start prototyping at 6pm when we stop answering emails, packing boxes and taking care of business.
What was the first thing you 3D printed?
A shot glass. Promptly filled with a deadly Scandinavian concoction.
Your favorite thing so far?
Everyday I wake up and check out what's new on Thingiverse and I'm never let down. Lately there has been a trend to make tools to do other things with a MakerBot like the MicroLathe. When folks are using the tools we design to make other tools to make other things it gets me excited. We make things that make things that people use to make things that make other things that make things. Try saying that 3 times fast.
Who came up with the idea for Makerbot Industries?
Zach(Smith aka Hoeken)had been obsessed with 3D printing for a while and infected us with the personal manufacturing bug. Making things that make things is fun so it's contagious.
How long did it take you guys to get the company going, to get the first bots out the door?
We started on Jan 17. Had the prototype done by Mar 17, and then had the first batch of MakerBots out the door on April 17th. There wasn't a lot of sleep in those months. We actually ate 2 cases of ramen in those months so we wouldn't have to go out and eat. That was a bad idea. Don't do that, it's not healthy.
The main difference between a MakerBot Cupcake CNC and a Reprap is how much time it takes to make one. The Reprap project is an academic research project and it can take a few months to gather the materials and then put a reprap together and then a lot of experimentation to get it to print. The MakerBot CupCake CNC is a kit and can be printing things out after a weekend of assembly with a friend.
Are you really going to try to tackle 3D scanning too?
Yes. Having a MakerBot 3D printer and MakerBot scanner is the washer/dryer combo of replication. Who doesn't want to print out portrait sculptures of their family and friends?
And what new materials will you introduce?
We just launched PLA, PolyLactic Acid, and it's flying off the shelves. It's clear and it's made from corn. It smells a bit like butter when you print with it. We're finishing up prototypes of the frostruder which is a syringe based extruder that can print with frosting and anything squishable like UV curable silicon. And clay! We're in the market for a kiln so we can fire our own MakerBotted tea set.
What is a typical Makerbot customer like?
A lot of our customers are time traveling antique hunters which brings up all sorts of shipping problems. Most people think that all MakerBot customers are seriously geeky, but the truth is that even though lots of designers and architects and engineers buy them, most of our customers are just clever people who are sick of waiting on other people for their jetpack.
Will everyone have a desktop 3D printer? If so when?
When the Altair came out, people criticized it and said there wasn't a need for more than 10 computers in the world. We're in that same kind of place with personal manufacturing that personal computing was back then. MakerBots will be an absolutely totally common thing to see on a desktop within 10 years.
Why is Thingiverse important?
We built Thingiverse because we needed a place to share our designs so we wouldn't lose them and so our friends could make what we had made and then modify those designs and make them better. The community is amazing and supportive, and it's also a lot of fun. There is no other place that you can share a design for a physical thing and people around the world will make their own copies within minutes (NB: mmm we might need to do some more work in promoting our 3D parts database). It's that kind of sharing magic that makes Thingiverse the closest thing to teleportation that we've got in this solar system.
What are the mayor challenges for you guys?
It can be hard to find time to eat and sleep. There is way too much stuff to do in this world right now. If you're bored in this day and age, you're doing it wrong. Turn off the TV, pick a ambition and start spending your free time working on it. Besides 3d printing, there are all sorts of open source collaborative hardware projects to work on.
A while back you had an experiment in crowd sourced manufacturing with having people produce parts for Makerbots for you. How did that work out? Will you be doing this more often?
We were the first company to ever do crowd sourced manufacturing and it worked out great. It was so cool to have MakerBots in the wild making parts for unbuilt MakerBots. We've got some ideas to do this again that we're going to announce later this year.
How important is your community to you? What do they do for the company?
The MakerBot community is awesome. Because we're open source and the community is so smart, we've seen a lot of participation in the research and development sector. For example, MakerBot Operator Tim Myrtle ripped the guts out of our temperature control code and replaced that section of code with some serious PID math which made the temperature of the nozzle much more stable. Because we're open source, our users know that the code and designs are theirs to hack on. They also know that if they improve their machine, they can share their improvement and everyone in the community benefits. Can I download a Makerbot and print it out using Shapeways?
Go for it! There was talk a while back on the MakerBot Operator google group to replace all the lasercut parts with printable parts. Progress is being made and already there is a printable extruder!
Are Makerbots going to be able to self replicate?
One step at a time. Self replication is cool, but our first step is actually to get the machine so that it can be an autonomous manufacturing factory. I want to be able to go to sleep and wake up to a pile of MakerBotted things next to my MakerBot!
Why did you guys start Makerbot Industries?
We felt compelled. We decided to live the dream. We followed our hearts.
Shouldn't you guys be making the next YouTube or
something (Bre used to work for Rocketboom, Etsy & MakeZine as their video producer)?
Why 3D printing?
We love the internet, but web apps are very
90's.Personal Manufacturing the new black. We see the future and it's
full of flying cars, replicators, and moon colonies. You can watch
videos of the MakerBot Operators popping our collars from the moon
colony on youtube when we get there.
You used to be a teacher, is that still kind of your job? To 'teach' 3D printing?
My mission in life is to be able to develop infrastructure that lets humans be creative. I feel that very tangibly inside my self. When I taught school that's what I did. When I made tutorial videos that's what I did. Adam, Zach and I are taking creative infrastructure to a new level by putting the tools of manufacturing into the hands of creative people. Everyday, even the long days packing boxes, we get excited about empowering people around to world create amazing things with our machines.
is an important article in Wired by Chris Anderson about the democratization of production. It will frame the discussion about the business that Shapeways is in. To sum it up, "In the age of democratized industry, every garage is a potential micro-factory, every citizen a potential micro-entrepreneur." An even shorter summation, "the long tail of things" is coming.
It is thought provoking and inspirational article and everyone should read it. In my opinion however it leaves out several crucial elements that will allow "atoms to become the new bits."
1. Atoms will become bits only if the right infrastructure evolves.
Small entrepreneurs have to be able to defend their IP. Markets will
have to be found. Customization and easy 3D modeling software will have
to be created. Services such as legal, customer service, accounting,
etc. will have to evolve. Customization tools will have to work.
Recommendation engines for people, things and products that do not
exist will have to be found, etc.
2. No amount of technology will replace the division of labor.
3. No amount of (available) innovation will eliminate comparative advantage.
4. Absolute advantage will not magically vanish overnight.
5. The invisible hand will still call the shots
6. Cooperation is not only a word on Sesame Street.
The most successful web publisher is not necessarily the best
coder, builder of websites, writer of web
frameworks, marketeer, authors, editor etc. Indeed even if he could do all of those things working with others would seem to be an efficient thing to do. The best designer in the world should probably spend more time designing than putting stuff in boxes. The best designer in the world might suck at marketing. The best designer in the world might be too expensive.
By working together and using the platforms available to us and using the skills of others in concert we will be able to achieve personal production. Networks of micro-businesses will define the future of commerce.
The key factor for someone who has or wants their own micro-factory or who wants to be a micro-entrepreneur is to specialize. In the New Industrial Revolution the core question will still be, what is it that you can do better than others?
Shapeways wants to do for 3D printing, what CSI did for petechial hemorrhaging. Luckily we are not alone, there are many companies working towards similar ends. These fellow travelers all want to in some way enable personal production and give people the ability to make anything. This post is meant to explain my personal view towards those fellow travelers, the future and pizza. It is long, my apologies.
There has been a lot of discussion about what the HP & Stratasys distribution deal will mean for 3D printing. Will it make 3D printing mainstream? Will it put a 3D printer on every desk, or is it just a limited marketing deal that will not change anything? Joseph Flaherty at Replicator thinks that the HP & Stratasys deal is, literally "no big deal." Al Dean at Develop 3D is more optimistic, while giving a good overview of the industry and challenges. Jeffry Mathias is more optmistic still, and thinks it will be huge. My own opinion on the matter was described as enthusiastic also. This may strike some of you as strange, given that previously I have gone on the record saying some potentially stupid things about desktop 3D printing. In the Singer problem I imply that the desktop 3D printer is basically irrelevant and in the Milk analogy I ask why we don't all have mini cows at home. Today I will go considerably further out on a limb.
How can I rhyme these seemingly disparate viewpoints of mine? By thinking of pizza. You have a lot of different types of businesses making pizza.
There is the fine dining restaurant where beautiful surroundings, linen tablecloths and jacketed waiters envelope you. This is a place where most come only on anniversaries or special occasions, places that are meant to take your breath away. They serve pizza here, with a twist, a wink of an eye and an eye popping price but pizza all the same. The service, the experience, the feeling of being in good hands and their expertise in cooking is why people go here.
You can also get pizza from Domino's and Pappa Johns, You order it and it arrives. The pizza is inexpensive, easy and the variation is enormous. This is a scale business that is efficient and competes on value for money, scale, scope, selection and distribution. Technology, innovation and what's under the hood matter as well as marketing. Within this segment there is variation such as NakedPizza that competes on health and ecology while retaining essentially the same model.
You could also build a pizza oven in your back yard. You could do this in two ways. You could hand build it yourself or get some professional company to ship it to you. In both cases the issues are similar. The initial start up costs are huge, especially compared to the other options. This will leave out a great many people unable or unwilling to make the investment. It will take up a lot of space and require a lot of effort to maintain. Initially you will have to train yourself to use it. You have acquired an asset and this could break, depreciate quicker than you thought or it could, simply not work as hoped. The risks are much higher, as is the effort. But the perceived payoff is higher. The dream of making one's own. You have to love the idea of it. Just look at the guy above smiling.
And what off the ultimate pizza company? A pizza with all of the taste, skill and pizazz of the fine dining restaurant; with the low cost, variation, innovation and ease of the delivery service; and with the feeling of having made it yourself. This ultimate pizza competitor would for $1.99 instantly produce a pizza anywhere you wanted it to be, to any specification, with any ingredients with an unmatched taste. A kind of ultimate frozen pizza. Would that be cool? Would that be awesome? For shizzle. Where would such an ultimate pizza be more likely to evolve initially? Who would have it first? Would it be accessible as an inexpensive product for everyone to buy? Or would lets say a restaurant somewhere or one of those delivery services be the first to implement it, the first to afford it? While waiting for this ultimate pizza, what would be the best course to take as a consumer?
At one point during our lifetime there might very well be a device that can manipulate at the molecular or atomic level. There might be a Tea, Earl Grey, Hot device, a proper replicator. This will change everything. But..if such a device does not exist a desktop 3D printer is a technophile's bread baking machine. A space & time consuming device that will bring a limited number of people immense enjoyment for limited use but be unused by the vast number of purchasers and people in general. Even people with a bread baking machine eat bread baked elsewhere. You can not make all bread with a bread baking machine. Skill is an element when baking bread. And just because there were other devices that used to be very expensive and limited and are now cheap and sophisticated does not necessarily mean that 3D printers will automatically follow the same path. Where is my $100 Rolls Royce? Nike shoes would cost less than a dollar and fly me to work if they were chips but they are not.
Desktop 3D printers, will be a tax on "makers" living in the early 21st century. Don't get me wrong, I will happily pay it. I am enthusiastic about open source 3D printers and HP. But, look at your toolbox. What is the best tool? The best hammer? For all use cases? I know you have a dream tool, an ultimate but is this the best tool for everyone, in all cases? Could you even imagine an ultimate hammer, a screwdriver? A tool that could do everything? A tool that could do everything better than every other tool, no matter how specialized? How about a factory that could make everything? More likely, but improbable. How about a service with lots of factories, could they make everything? More likely still but even they could not simultaneously be the best at pizazz and afford ability. They would have to make choices, choose a path. They would, Oh I don't know opt for building a service and a community instead of a machine. Indeed this is why I work at Shapeways. Because if a replicator comes on the market we will be the first to buy it. Because if the dream is to let everyone make everything the challenge is (counter intuitively) not one of machinery but rather one of infrastructure such as software, helpful community members, designers, scale and scope. There is a broad host of problems that we are tackling and this will be essential for making 3D printing mainstream. Confused, at this point during the diatribe? Trywin Command and Conquer with one unit. Try find a shirt that fits all your friends. Try find a shirt that everyone you've ever met will like (and no, not everyone likes the Wolf Moon shirt). To make everything is an almost insurmountable mountain of complexity, to let everyone make everything adds a plethora of pitfalls, to limit your solution to within the confines of a desk is delusion. A desktop 3D printer will for some use cases for some people provide a completely compelling way to make something of any shape less well than larger machines owned by people who have more space or money.
So why am I going to buy a desktop 3D printer at one point? Because its cool. I'm a 3D printing fan boy. I'm like one of those people with every Barbie, all the Pokemon, I'm compelled. And this is where my enthusiasm for the HP deal comes in. If enough people believe that desktop 3D printing will happen, then it will. This, like the internet in the 1990s. This is the: no matter what the economics and technical challenges are, if we all go nuts and act like lemmings we are capable of incredible achievements. The hysteria, millions of people working towards the same goal, billions more to go into things like boo.com, dark fiber, data centers, coders, code, software, routers and the marketing, PR and news that brought everyone to the internet. The internet became a frenzy, a self fulling prophecy that defied any economic logic. Anything that brings people closer to believing that desktop 3D printing is inevitable, is great. Because a massive investment of time and money in one thing, in one dream, is bound to do amazing things.
But..you started this talking about pizza? Yes, I did and may I congratulate you on your perseverance as well as thank you for it, in this part of the story.
If I asked you about the pizza industry you might think that all companies that made pizza compete with each other. They don't. Each slice is consumed by different people for different reasons. Yes, there could be overlap. I could buy a Pizza at night because I'm too lazy to fire up my pizza oven or order one from this one place because they have flavors or ingredients I don't have. But, essentially these companies do not and will not derive significant gains or losses in revenues from these other pizza category companies. These companies would not thrive or fail if they did well or badly as compared to or in opposition to the overall pizza market. Each of their futures will be determined by different tactical and strategic choices and in competition with different players. Even if the market was saturated, they would not predominantly compete. Domino's is more worried about McDonalds than fine dining. The "build your own wood fired oven" pizza people actually compete more with hot tubs, hobbies & vacations more than the other categories.
Shapeways aims to be Dominos of 3D printing. The guys at RepRap & Make@Home are the "build your own pizza oven crowd." Stratasys, Objet, Zcorp, 3D systems and EOS are the professional pizza oven retailers. Makerbot is a unique hybrid of the two. 3D printing service bureaus such as Materialise are the fine dining restaurants. We all would like to offer the ultimate in production technology. We all would love to have or sell the ultimate replication machine. If there is an internet-like hype we might all get the chance, eventually. But, our energies are wasted in competing across categories.
We are all fulfilling a similar need but essentially not exactly the same need, and not to the same people and not in the same way. The differences between those needs and how we meet them will mean the difference between success and failure for individual companies and products in this industry. Domino's might be the most excellent pizza delivery company out there but they could not do fine dining. There are six billion people on this planet that have no concept of what 3D printing can do. Lets divy these up first and then start thinking about the other guy.
PLASTIC JAM OPEN INPUT TRAYS. HP has joined the party and our first spy photo below of the HP 3DJet has impressed me. HP seems serious about putting a 3D printer on everyone's desk. Which is great because right now I don't even have a regular printer on my desk so there is plenty of room for a 3D printer.
Imagine a future where everyone has a 3D printer. It will be amazing. UPS would only deliver 3D printing materials. All their packages would be exactly the same. You quickly 3D print some cutlery for your guests just before they arrive, only to have the printer stop working because you ran out of Cyan. Or you 3D print a game character for your child, only to have the MPAA sue you for $1,800,000 because the movie Avatar holds the copyright for all the avatars anywhere, anytime. A friend would send you a better mousetrap via the internets and you could try it out for real shortly after. Unless of course you happen to open the file with Adobe Reader 3D, because I'm guessing that this would take more time than you have on this earth. Environmentalists will have to put "please don't 3D print this" stickers on everything, every single thing on the planet, even all of the ideas.
In all seriousness, the moment that HP joined Stratasys in manufacturing 3D printers is a watershed. A $100 billion dollar revenue hardware and technology services firm is saying, "we would like to take this technology and make it mainstream." This marks the moment when 3D printing turned from techno-spielerei and the pioneering efforts of a few technology companies into a thing for MBAs to think about. Makerbot already succeeded in putting an affordable 3D printer out there. Shapeways means that anyone can buy or make 3D printed things inexpensively already. EOS, Stratasys, Zcorp, Objet and 3D Systems have been showing people for years how powerful the technology is. The significance of HP lies in putting a huge company with incredible scope and considerable marketing prowess in the middle of 3D printing industry.
As a result eleven things are now happening or will happen as a result of HP joining up with Stratasys and entering the 3D printing market:
Many more stock and industry analysts are looking at the rapid manufacturing industry than before. These analysts are now mulling the significance of 3D printing as a consumer proposition. Their ideas will spread through finance and industry.
Marketeers and B2B salespeople at HP are now thinking about they will sell 3D printers to their channels. Their ideas will for a large part re-define how 3D printers are sold.
These same newly minted HP 3D printing Marketing people will also be totally angry when they discover that Desktop Factory is already taken.
HP competitors and other hardware companies are deciding if this is a business they want to be in.
Ten thousand people have started writing business plans about their amazing 3D printing start ups.
Venture Capital people are going to be asking themselves the question, "are we smarter than HP or is HP smarter than we?"
Business Development people at rapid manufacturing companies are scrambling through their Rolodexes with panicked fingers in search of that one nerdy kid that ended up doing something vague at Dell.
People at Mckinsey job interviews and business schools will be asked, "how much would a desktop 3D printer that could print anything sell for?"
Business Week is trying to find the Kevin Rose of 3D printing so they can put him on the cover. It will, amazingly, take them a while to find Bre Pettis, but it will happen.
It will at first become much more difficult and later much easier to explain what I do at family get togethers.
In short the passionate few, the adventurers, the nerds, the people plugging away for years at ideas, the people that got their hands dirty are now going to be joined by people with weird job titles. Pre Sales Solution Architect III & Enterprise Customer Pursuit Program Manager (I wish I made that up). The Power Point punters are coming. Packaging Look & Feel meetings will be held and unboxing experiences will be discussed. There will be market research. People will jump into this market like its the worlds biggest bouncy castle.
In the short term this will suck. The suits will get it wrong. They'll come up with stupid terms and shiny things that don't work. But, in the long term we will be better for it. They will drive this market forward and eventually machines will become better and cheaper. Tea, Earl Grey, Hot, will still take a long time. But, I already have cleared space for 3D printer on my desk.
Really, I have. You can see it in the photo above. I keep a space empty on a otherwise way too cluttered desk so that I can eventually put a 3D printer there. That space has been empty for 19 months. What should & will fill it? Will that be an open source kit? a slick injection molded (oh the irony) affair? And the 11th thing that is happening right now? Many people are now wondering how many people there are out there with space on their desks for a 3D printer.