I thought it wise to provide readers with an explanation of why our coverage of 3D printing is so broad.
While some publications may focus on specific niches, such as production additive manufacturing, metal 3D printing or hobbyist activities, we cover all of the above. The reason is in one word: Technology.
3D Printing Success
The goal of virtually all 3D printing companies is to be successful, meaning they grow, accumulate customers and eventually become one of the larger players in the industry. Of course, only a few achieve that level, but it’s in the mind of all.
Clearly, there is a strong focus in the industry on those big players, as they are the ones in the best position to supply product to clients. They have the largest sales and distribution networks, as well as the manufacturing capacity and service strength to get the job done. They are quite worthy of being covered by publications, as their moves can affect almost everyone.
But there’s also the smaller players, and even those in the hobbyist market that can disrupt the activities of the larger players. One way this can happen is with pricing.
As patents expire, more participants begin offering inexpensive options, putting financial pressure on the big players. This may result in lowered prices from the big companies, but hopefully also new innovations.
3D Printing Innovation
But as someone who worked in big companies for many years, I can tell you that innovation is extremely challenging for large organizations. They are filled with departments of people who generally don’t wish to change things, as they believe their current state is successful, at least to them in a personal sense.
It’s extraordinarily difficult to make changes in an organization that doesn’t want to change things at the individual level. It takes very strong leadership to persuade the masses to take a new path, and even more so if the change involves personal loss of jobs.
Smaller companies generally have a much easier time innovating, as they have less to lose, and a much smaller set of individuals to convince of a new strategy. They’re naturally motivated!
Thus it is from the smaller companies where we see by far the most technological innovations. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen incredibly radical proposals from companies you’ve never heard of.
However, many of these companies will not succeed. But that’s the evolution of technology at play: many things are tried, but few survive and thrive. Innovation comes from many, many attempts, and we like to encourage and support them whenever possible.
Sometimes these innovations are sufficiently valuable to generate commercial success on their own, and we see large companies appear, seemingly from nowhere, like Carbon or Desktop Metal. Their success is largely based on the technological innovations they’ve configured into easy-to-use packages for clients. In some cases these new players are so successful they eventually overtake the current major players.
At other times you will see smaller companies being acquired by larger companies who then absorb the technological innovation – or shut it down in order to protect their existing business. It’s always fascinating on the last day of a major 3D print trade show to observe CEO’s exploring the show floor and speaking to smaller players, perhaps making deals.
There are cases where companies jump niches. While a company may start as a consumer-based 3D printer manufacturer, they may eventually be producing professional or industrial equipment after some years of innovating and development.
Hence our coverage of all 3D printing companies, large and small. The big players are important for certain, but so are the innovative small players.
All deserve attention.