This year’s CES exhibition in Las Vegas was notable in the 3D space primarily by the missing presence of several large industrial vendors. Except one, sort of.
The industry giants, 3D Systems and Stratasys decided not to attend, perhaps to distance themselves from the “consumer” nature of CES. It may be that the investment community looks down on the notion of consumers doing 3D printing, so in an effort to keep their stock prices healthy, it’s possible they want to disassociate their names from a consumer-focused show.
It’s also possible they’ve determined there are better places to spend their valuable exhibition budget, like more industrial shows where their clients may be more frequent.
One 3D printer manufacturer that could also fall in this mode is MCOR Technologies, the Ireland-based developer of a full RGB color 3D printer, the Arke. As you might expect after reading the above, MCOR did not exhibit at the event either, after having announced their new color machine at last year’s event.
But imagine our surprise when we literally bumped into MCOR’s CEO, Conor MacCormack, on the show floor. We made arrangements to do a full length interview with him, which we will publish in a few days.
However, after our encounter I had to ask the question: Why was MCOR’s CEO at CES if they were not exhibiting?
Certainly there are often 3D print entrepreneurs wandering the floor looking for coverage. In fact, our team was stopped multiple times by “non exhibitors” wishing to show us “something” from inside their coat pocket. In one case it happened to be a ten-pound metal print, but that’s another story.
In any case, MCOR is certainly not looking for cheap media coverage like a startup company. So that’s not it.
Perhaps they were meeting with other 3D print companies? That’s possible, but I think that’s unlikely. For example, “normal” 3D printer manufacturers might want to visit with plastic filament suppliers to make deals on materials. But MCOR’s machine runs on plain paper, so they have no business with the usual 3D print materials suppliers. Similarly, their market, color 3D printing, is so different than that of every exhibiting vendor, I cannot see any reason to travel across the world for meetings with companies in entirely different 3D printer markets.
But there’s another possibility that could be extremely interesting.
In addition to 3D print vendors, CES also has vendors from literally every industry that has anything to do with technology. If you want a meeting with a company or companies, CES would be a very good place to quickly get them done.
Our understanding is that MCOR has been setting up a powerful manufacturing relationship that could provide them with the ability to produce a great deal of full color 3D printers quickly. These will need to be sold, and I imagine that MCOR is considering the best ways to make the most sales possible.
One way to do that would be to partner with a larger company to leverage their extensive sales network. That’s most definitely a very good reason to fly across the world for a meeting.
But which companies would be interested in such an arrangement? One clue might be that MCOR’s technology uses paper materials to 3D print, suggesting there might be an affinity between MCOR and existing companies using paper-based technologies. Because those companies usually provide paper materials for their photocopier and paper printing products, they may be seeking ways to expand their materials business by selling a new device into their existing clients. That new device might be the MCOR Arke color 3D printer.
Were there any large paper-powered companies at CES that MCOR might have been meeting with? Let’s have a look at some notable companies with major paper divisions to see if they were present at the event:
- Sony: Exhibiting
- Panasonic: Exhibiting
- Ricoh: Exhibiting
- Canon: Exhibiting
- Sharp: Exhibiting
- Kyocera: Not exhibiting, but attending
- HP: Not exhibiting, but attending
- Xerox: Not exhibiting
- Konica: Not exhibiting
- Brother: Not exhibiting
- Savin: Not exhibiting
- Lanier: Not exhibiting
- Minolta: Not exhibiting
- Lexmark: Not exhibiting
- Olivetti: Not exhibiting
- Pitney Bowes: Not exhibiting
- Gestetner: Not exhibiting
I can’t imagine MCOR doing a deal with HP because HP is busy developing their own new 3D printing process. But several of the others could be extremely interesting partners for MCOR, as some do not yet have 3D printer products.
It may be that there is pressure within the paper industry to move into the 3D print market: if one company does so, others may follow. And that’s what seems to be happening with both Ricoh and Canon taking steps into 3D printing.
Some of those companies with mature 3D printers or those who have been reselling other’s 3D printers may be very interested to speak with MCOR, like Ricoh and Canon. Some that don’t currently have 3D printer products at all, like Panasonic, Sony or Sharp, might want to get in on the action.
There is yet another possibility: one of these companies might be interested in buying MCOR itself to block out their competitors from the technology, if indeed MCOR has established a large-scale manufacturing operation. If that’s the case it could be fantastic news for MCOR, and the market in general.
Imagine a well known paper company such as one of the above having a full color 3D printer on their product list: such equipment could begin to appear in many offices around the world, greatly increasing the accessibility and knowledge of 3D printing. The spin offs from such an event could be extreme, particularly in the 3D software and content markets.
But then again, this idea is entirely speculation based on bumping into someone in the hallway.