To what lengths must a 3D printer manufacturer go in order to convince prospects to become customers?
That’s the challenge facing the construction 3D printing industry at the moment, but it’s one that has already been experienced by other segments of the 3D printing industry.
Today if you look at the aerospace industry there is plenty of additive activity already taking place. But that was not the case some years ago.
Back then many in the aerospace industry were skeptical of new technologies, particularly because their parts in many cases were flight critical. Making bad parts wasn’t just a mistake; it could be fatal or financially catastrophic.
It took many years of experimentation by a brave few in that industry to explore the technology and eventually produce a breakthrough design. Rather than the hundreds of parts that typically made up a turboprop engine, this design used only a dozen. This provided massive savings in assembly costs, as well as reducing weight and risks considerably. That design was the a breakthrough not only in methods of producing complex aircraft parts, but also for convincing others in that industry to get on board with 3D printing.
After that moment the use of 3D printing, particularly LPBF processes, grew substantially as an increasing number of participants then understood the true benefits of the tech. I’m told that these days there isn’t a rocket launched that doesn’t have at least a few 3D printed parts in it.
In other words, the technology has shifted from a curious experiment to accepted production status over the course of several years. That growth attracted new entrants to the 3D printer business, and it continues to this day.
Back to the construction 3D printing business.
Where is that segment? It’s definitely not in the same class as the current state of aerospace additive manufacturing. At this point the skeptics far, far outweigh the persuaded.
How can the participants shift that thinking?
As someone who spent many years persuading people of new tech, the best approach is to show it. It’s a strange thing: many people simply don’t understand new concepts with only words or pictures. They have to literally “SEE” the thing before they get it.
That is precisely the approach taken by COBOD, who recently exhibited their construction 3D printing technology at the World of Concrete 2022 trade show in Las Vegas. This is apparently the world’s largest trade show dedicated to concrete tech, with over 37,000 attendees.
Look at the image at top. You can see plenty of people carefully watching what happens. These people would swap out every few minutes as they continued on their way, but in their minds is now the concept of construction 3D printing.
As you can see in the images, COBOD erected a construction 3D printer in the parking lot of the Las Vegas Convention Center (I’m pretty certain they obtained permission beforehand). They then ran the printer for passers-by to observe the process.
If you’ve never been to an event at the Las Vegas Convention Center, it is actually a collection of large but separate exhibition halls, and attendees must walk long paths between halls to see everything. This placement of the construction 3D printer by COBOD would certainly have attracted a great number of those walking by, especially considering they were all in the concrete industry. It’s highly likely at least a few were convinced of the practicality of construction 3D printing as a result of this street-side presentation.
It was not the first time COBOD undertook a real-time construction 3D printing demonstration, and it won’t be the last. They have a long, long way to go to shift industry thinking.
But once they do…