Shapeways, The Community


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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. These same newly minted HP 3D printing Marketing people will also be totally angry when they discover that Desktop Factory is already taken.
  4. HP competitors and other hardware companies are deciding if this is a business they want to be in.
  5. Ten thousand people have started writing business plans about their amazing 3D printing start ups.
  6. Venture Capital people are going to be asking themselves the question, “are we smarter than HP or is HP smarter than we?”
  7. 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.
  8. People at Mckinsey job interviews and business schools will be asked, “how much would a desktop 3D printer that could print anything sell for?”
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Photo Released under a Creative Commons license.

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