This post is written by Alec Miller, Manager of Measured Innovation at TechAlliance.
You’ve probably seen a movie in 3D. Perhaps you own or know somebody who owns a television with 3D viewing capability. But what about a 3D printer? Chances are, you haven’t used one yourself, although you may have heard about 3D printers and will certainly be hearing more about them over the next few years.
3D printing, known more technically as “additive manufacturing,” is a major departure from traditional approaches to manufacturing. For as long as anyone can remember, manufacturing has been “subtractive,” meaning that producers would start with more material than they needed, and then mold it, form it, and machine it so that the end product conformed to the design.
Additive manufacturing, in contrast, uses 3D printers to build parts, layer by layer, from the ground up.
It’s important to point out that 3D printing is not a new technology. However, it is at or near an important inflection point right now. Those familiar with the technology adoption lifecycle described by Geoffrey Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm, or market research firm Gartner’s Hype Cycle, know that in the world of technology, timing is critical.
Gartner believes that 3D printing is currently around the “peak of inflated expectations” phase of the lifecycle, although people like Alex Daly from investment research firm Casey Research seem to think it’s a bit closer to achieving mass market adoption beyond the pioneering innovators and early adopters.
But, whether it’s two, five or ten years before 3D printing achieves mass market adoption, the technology is getting better and cheaper at an accelerating rate, and these trends will have a major impact on how products are designed, prototyped, manufactured and sold.
For those individuals and organizations trying to stay relevant in a fast-changing world, it seems only prudent to pay attention to this important trend.
If you’re interested in learning more about the social and economic implications that this technology could have, check out a list I compiled for some more links on 3D printing technology and the broader implications that it could have in the future.
Closer to home, TechAlliance will be hosting a new event on November 22 to showcase the exciting technology frontier of 3D printing. Print Your Part, in partnership with Javelin Technologies and two design collaborators, will showcase this rapidly advancing technology, complete with a live demonstration, and how it may impact your business in the near future.
In addition to broadening your knowledge on this subject, you will have the opportunity to print one part for your business. If you would like to have a part printed, register for Print Your Part and submit your 3D design online at www.javelin-tech.com.