Has 3D Printing Hit The Knee Of The Curve?

We’re pondering a couple of recent developments in the low-end 3D printing space that may indicate a change of state in the low-end 3D printing world.
Has 3D Printing Hit The Knee Of The Curve?First, Shapeways received a massive investment from top-ranked venture capital firms: USD$5M from Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures. We wrote, and still believe that this means Union Square thinks there could be a big future in 3D printing. They must believe many people will be printing objects via 3D print services, and they want to be one of them. 
Has 3D Printing Hit The Knee Of The Curve?Second, MakerBot suddenly introduced a brand new printer this week, the Thing-O-Matic. This powerful printer is an evolutionary step over their previous model, the Cupcake, but may also be a reaction to competition from PP2P’s Up! pre-assembled printer. MakerBot has also hired a number of new bloggers and technicians, and seems to be in a sort of expansion mode, no doubt to meet increasing demands and capitalize on a growing market for 3D printing capability. 
Both events tell us something profound: those in the know are putting real dollars behind these ventures because they believe there is a big future in 3D printing. Be it from a service or from an owned printer, many people will be printing objects in the future. These guys are making it happen, right now. 
Where will the next big investment be? And which of the big commercial manufacturers will take notice and release a low-end 3D printer or consumer-friendly 3D print service to compete? It’s not too late yet, but as the knee of the curve bends upwards, it will become increasingly difficult for others to catch up. 
What do you think?
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