Following up on this post speculating on 10,000 MakerBots in 2011, we're thinking of what steps MakerBot (or any other 3D Printer company) might consider to "Cross the Chasm".
The "Chasm" refers to a social scenario that often occurs as a business grows. At first their clients are enthusiastic early adopters, capable of accepting a roughly made product. But when that market is saturated, businesses must move into the larger mass markets - and those have quite different needs than the early adopters. They want ease of use, no fuss and quality results every time. If a business cannot transition to that mode (i.e. "cross the chasm") then they are frequently overtaken by competitors that do.
So what must be done? We think the following aspects must be addressed before any 3D printer can break into the mainstream:
- Assembly: The typical consumer cannot possibly assemble a 3D printer, at least at the level of skill required today. They must be sold pre-assembled or mostly assembled
- Calibrated: The device must work correctly out of the box. There will be no tolerance for the experimentation currently required to ensure that prints are successful
- Safety: All required safety regulations must be met, and that may require changes to a machine's design
- Software: Easy ways to find or design and send 3D models to the printer must be freely available. If more than one piece of software or service is required, that's too many. And it must pass the "Mom" test, too
- Price: A price of USD$1000-2000 is still too high for many consumers. We're thinking $500 would be a breakthrough price, if it's achievable
- Style: Current 3D printers are typically styled to match the underlying engineering, but that's not particularly attractive to general consumers, and in fact may scare them away by making it look more complex
Interestingly, the PP3DP printer meets a few of these already.
Are there more things to do? Yes, but we think these would be a great start.