Joris Peels of i.Materialise guest-posted 11 provocative predictions for 3D printing on TechCrunch this week, and one of them caused us to ponder whether it could really happen. No, it's not the "Bre Pettis will appear on the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine in 2011" - that's entirely unpredictable. We're more interested in the "Makerbot will sell more than 10,000 3D printers in 2011" prediction.
According to Bre's response post:
In 2009, we sold 750 MakerBots and in 2010, we’ve sold 2300 MakerBots. 10,000 more MakerBots is a pretty wild prediction, but it might just happen if 3D printing keeps going the direction it’s going!
We'd be ecstatic along with Bre if that happened - but there are going to be some significant challenges ahead. While MakerBot might hit 10,000 units in 2011, there will be a ceiling they'll eventually reach. We're thinking about the classic "crossing the chasm" business problem, in which startup companies fail to transition to the wider marketplace. That wider marketplace is made up of consumers, not makers, who are MakerBot's current clientele. Sure, there's a lot more than 10,000 makers out there capable of operating a MakerBot - but are there millions?
This is a challenge faced by every small tech company, and MakerBot is no different. What can they do to cross the chasm? We'll explore some ideas for that later this week.