He makes some compelling arguments but we disagree with his premise that we won’t see many home printers outside of passionate artists/hobbyists and home manufacturing businesses for a very long time because “it doesn’t make economic sense.”
Our lab has been beta testing hardware and software and the technology is improving rapidly. In very short order we will see lower price points, more units with multiple extruders and more accessible software, to name just a few improvements. Indeed, we believe that “ease of use,” at present perhaps the biggest inhibitor for the non-tinkerer, will improve considerably in 2013 and open up a much broader market of buyers. One high-growth segment will be professional and amateur 3D designers/modelers. As the technology and materials improve, a lot of them will want 3D printers on their desk.
But more importantly, the bell curve is moving. As blogger Seth Godin explains, we have more nerds than ever before.
On the left are the geeks and nerds who love stuff “because the new is new and edgy and changes things,” explains Godin. “All the way to the right are the laggards, the ones who are the last to change. In the middle, the early adopters, early majority and late majority groups (the masses) wait for the new idea to be proven and widely adopted. About 85 percent of people are in the middle.”
However, for the last 30 years, marketers have been working to turn more people into geeks, into early adopters willing to try the new. And it’s working, according to Godin. To illustrate, he provides the distorted curve below:
"More and more people are lining up to buy the new gadget, more exploring the edges of the Internet, more willing in ways that were seen as too risky just a generation ago," muses Godin.
The cultural implications are huge, according to Godin, who believes that we now live in a society with more people more willing to change more often. That means a growing number of people are more receptive to new ideas and solutions. It also means a growing number of people are restless, and more likely to walk away if they aren’t amazed, delighted and challenged the way nerds want to be, he concludes.
Will 3D printers amaze, delight and challenge? We think so. The energy around 3D printer vendors’ booths at CES this year certainly suggests as much. When the wraps were taken off of MakerBot’s Replicator 2X, a very engaged crowd flocked around several units printing at once to watch the “magic.”
Indeed, the community of geeks is growing. And that’s good news for the fledgling consumer 3D printer market.