3D printers: Disruptive to business?

3D printers: Disruptive to business?

Summary: Gartner analyst Jackie Fenn named 3D printers as one of the emerging trends that could impact society, technology and management.

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TOPICS: Printers, Hardware
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3D printers have the potential to alter businesses as well as revamp consumer demand as these gizmos move from a oddity to becoming more mainstream.

Now 3D printers aren't something that will be in your home office any time soon, but I'm a bit surprised by the number of passing mentions at the Gartner Symposium in Orlando these products are getting.

If 3D printers---around since the late 1980s---are going to be disruptive and may impact the supply and demand equation. On the supply side, Gartner analyst Jackie Fenn named 3D printers as one of the emerging trends that could impact society, technology and management.

Also at Smart Planet:

On the supply side of the equation, 3D printers can be had for less than $10,000. That price point is important because 3D printers are now cheap enough for enterprises to buy in bulk. Ultimately, these businesses armed with 3D printers can easily make product prototypes. These prototypes would streamline design and development of new products, argued Fenn.

In the short to medium term, this technology offers the potential to accelerate the prototyping and manufacturing processes and support customization on a scale not previously economically viable. In the long term, on-site manufacturing of parts has the potential to transform the logistics of parts supply, distribution and delivery. As a result, it is likely that powerful new business models will emerge that could prove hugely disruptive to existing parts manufacturing, distribution and logistics.

On the consumer side, 3D printers can serve as personal factories that churn out customized goods. Today, shoe companies use 3D printers for single prototypes. There's no reason why a few hobbyists couldn't start making their own shoes.

Taken to the extreme consumers can theoretically become their own manufacturers and that's going to be disrputive to some industries. If all goes well, these consumers can become enterprises of their own.

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Topics: Printers, Hardware

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13 comments
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  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    Computer, Earl Grey tea. Hot.
    arlandi@...
    • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

      @arlandi@...

      You beat me to the punch
      Richardbz
  • I guess if you don't mind your shoes and other prototypes

    made out of plastic...
    baggins_z
    • Made out of plastic

      @baggins_z Nahhhh... like all "real men" I like my shoes made out of leather which is just fur with the hair taken off.
      Shadeburst
  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    > "... 3D printers can be had for less than $10,000."

    Far less than $10,000. There are several kits available for less than $1500, and used ones for <$1000 (ebay). It's getting much closer for common home/hobbyist use.
    mharr
  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    Can we call it a Derox?
    triram
  • Please get off the 'disrputive' merry-go-round.

    You have to research 3D printers because you're making a leap in the "disruptive" dept.

    [i]Taken to the extreme consumers can theoretically become their own manufacturers and that???s going to be disrputive to some industries. If all goes well, these consumers can become enterprises of their own.[/i]

    Why? because they save on prototyping costs? Do you know what the "price per part" is when factoring in materials and maintanance for one of these? These aren't really machines for mass producing finished products, and do have many limitations of their own.

    Don't get me wrong, I've seen them in action and they're pretty cool, but they definatelly aren't production machines.
    William Farrell
    • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

      @William Farrell

      Yeah, it will never be about volume (at least not anytime in the next 15 years). Volume manufacturing will still drive MUCH better economies of scale.

      But once the tech gets cheap enough for home use, you will see disruptive levels of customization which bypasses traditional manufacturing.

      There are many things that people may choose to make and customize themselves even though it is more expensive simply because they get exactly what they wanted. (For example crown molding).

      It makes for a far more egalitarian manufacturing environment similar (though to a lesser extent) to the disruption that the internet caused the news media.
      SlithyTove
  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    Nice
    MoeFugger
  • Disruptive? Depends on the perspective.

    3D printers are going to result in almost exactly the same phenomenon as when the "printers" came about. A good printer these days (inkjet/laser/etc.) can produce your meticulously formatted report in great detail and accuracy, but you're still not going to "manufacture" your books with a personal printer.

    The mere suggestion of everyone being a "manufacturer" (actual cost aside) will force the manufacturing industry to adapt to new market segments. Granted, there will be much fewer producers of clothes hooks for home use (apart from premium designs) when you'll be able to print some, real-world dynamics will catch up to the 3D printer trend and generate some limitations to the printer's scale of usefulness.
    zhangtaihao
  • Great with 3D-scanners

    I have gizmo with a plastic cog wheel broken. There is no way I can get hold of a replacement. Now if I had a 3D-scanner and one of these 3D printers which would print in strong enough proastic, I could make myself a copy! To be economic, I would have to take this to a copy shop who would have this facility. Can't wait!
    an_actuary
  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    I'd like to print myself up a new car, please.
    Splunge
  • RE: 3D printers: Disruptive to business?

    Not sure what this article was supposed to do - I guess attract views by using the word "disruptive". As much as I like the idea of 3D printing, the limitations these printers put on the material used (specific kind of plastic) and design prevent them currently from being "useful" in the Neal Stephenson "The Diamond Age" kind of way. Cute, fun toys that have their place as prototyping platforms and certainly they will get better and more versatile in the future but disruptive? Not yet.
    Splatus