How we were able to predict (correctly!) that consumer 3D printers would not be disruptive
People often wonder how the predictions I make can be so accurate. Sometimes it takes a great deal of research, but here is an example from this year that was much simpler.
Last fall there were many media stories about consumer 3D printers for under $1,000 — and how this was an important disruption and would lead to “a factory in every home.” Competing forward looking think pieces parroted the hype, but we didn’t. What gave us that insight?
Really simple stuff. I went online and read reviews and user blogs. Then I asked a couple of friends on social media who had recently bought a home 3D printer. Literally every single source I went to (100%!) told the same story:
The printers were hard to set up, broke down frequently, worked very slowly, took repeated attempts to make even a single decent object…and at the end of the process made small plastic objects that looked like a reject from a Happy Meal. 🙂
Many of the users were glad they had experimented with the technology, and felt they learned some useful skills. But virtually everyone printed for a few weeks or months, and then put the machine in the basement or the garage, where it kept the pasta-maker company.
Yesterday, 3D Systems, one of the two major manufacturers of consumer 3D printers, announced it was exiting that business. The enterprise market is still great (and 3D Systems is a big player in that space), but the factory in every home remains science fiction, at least for now.