There’s an interesting mainstream media video exploring the current state of 3D printing that poses some interesting opportunities.
The video, produced by Deutsch Welle, a German public broadcaster, is quite unlike your typical 3D printing videos. This has much more of a standard science and business documentary style, and is of a form you’d expect see on a major broadcast channel.
The 3D Printing Revolution
The video’s title, “The 3D Printing Revolution”, is reminiscent of many similarly-styled productions during the consumer 3D printing boom. Those productions attempted to capitalize on the then-hyped tech belief that everyone should own a 3D printer. That was, of course, not what turned out.
Instead the industry fell into the “Trough of Disillusionment”, a term invented by Gartner as part of their famed Hype Cycle concept. The Cycle is a way of categorizing the current state of a technology in a standard sequence of “life events” that all technologies seem to pass through.
The Trough of Disillusionment is a phase in the Cycle where the public interest wanes due to prior over-exposure and misunderstandings. We’ve definitely seen this effect, as the huge consumer boom predicted by pundits seven years ago never appeared. Meanwhile, the next phase of the Cycle is the “Plateau of Productivity”, where persistent technology users figure out truly profitable ways to use the tech.
We’ve been waiting for this phase to happen for some time, and it is indeed slowly happening. But this video in particular hints that we might be actually there. It’s the first serious mass-media documentary that focuses on uses of 3D printing applicable to the Plateau of Productivity phase. In fact, the documentary never even mentions the consumer phase.
3D Printing Plateau of Productivity
What they do mention is how the technology is being extensively used in manufacturing today for production of low-volume, radical geometry parts. Business leaders are interviewed to provide evidence of this concept, including those from Carbon, BigRep, Fast Radius and others. There’s even an environmental twist, a trend growing strongly in the field, as they speak with ReFlow’s Jasper Middendorp.
While the video won’t reveal much new to those experienced in the field, I do encourage everyone to watch the video regardless.
Our own Managing Editor, Sarah Goehrke, appears briefly in one scene mid-way through the video during a short scene at Formnext. See if you can catch her at the 19 minute mark.
There’s another reason I want you to watch this documentary: you can use it to help push forward the technology.
Here’s my thinking: many companies still do not yet understand 3D printing technology and some even rank it as a consumer, not-serious-production technology, perhaps as a result of the consumer crash of 2014/15. If the skeptical managers making such technology decisions were able to watch this video, it might put some new ideas in their heads.
The video is certainly at a level where a technology executive could easily understand the process of 3D printing involved, but more importantly, see how other companies are leveraging it for radical changes in their industries.
The message given by this video is that 3D printing will lead to a powerful manufacturing future, where unique products and spare parts can be rapidly produced.
Who wouldn’t want that?