Let’s 3D bunk these myths. Most new technologies get pushback. The resistance comes from people who are afraid of it, who can’t grasp the relevance, who don’t understand new technology in general, or those who have entrenched interests in keeping the status quo. Many radio stations fought television’s market entrance. The survivors grasped the new technology (TV) and added it to their portfolios. NBC has radio stations AND TV stations.
So let’s 3D bunk these myths one by one.
Myth #1: 3D printing will not catch on because it is too technical. The interesting question is, too technical for who? Engineers and manufacturing technicians have always been technical people. These practitioners have been dealing with design drawings and specifications and blueprints (print and electronic) for decades, so they will clearly grasp new technologies quickly. However, the consumer will also. The “how” of 3D printing won’t be interesting to many of us; we will be interested in the benefits of it. What will it do for my business, my brand, or my needs?
As 3D printing applications mature, so does their ease of use. Right now there are even iPhone and iPad apps that allow consumers to create, augment, design, and order 3D-printed specialty products by tracing their fingers over a tablet computer. The apps get easier to use and cost less and less over time. My nine-year-old can design and print her own tea cups. Too technical? Not true.
Myth #2: Most people won’t do any 3D printing because they aren’t manufacturing people. The best part about myths is that there can be some truth to them. In this case, the statement is true; most people are not manufacturing people. But most people are not plumbers either! Does this mean the entire field of plumbing hasn’t gotten more advanced, more accessible to the consumer (look at all the plumbing parts available in Home Depot) and more user friendly? Since we as people are still going to need “stuff,” we are still going to need “stuff” made. 3D printing is another way to make “stuff.” Even if everyone doesn’t become a home manufacturer, we are still consumers.
Myth #3: 3D printing will never replace traditional assembly line manufacturing. There is truth to this as well. Assembly lines with large economies of scale will not go away. Those assembly lines may move from country to country, but won’t disappear as a methodology. But who says 3D printing has to replace it? Can’t it augment it? Just as TV did not replace radio, this rapid prototyping and incredible customization will add to assembly line’s capabilities. And once the small runs available through 3D printing are utilized, we can go back to the large runs to get the per unit cost down.
Myth #4: 3D printers are very slow and take a long time to make one product, so who can wait? If the 13,000 audiologists (people who fit patients with hearing aids) service clients one at a time and can manufacture on demand for each patient, then the wait is even less than ordering a hearing aid. Over and over again we hear of one-off needs for people that are satisfied by 3D printing. Let’s also not forget that early computers were slow. Early Internet access was dial-up. Early cars went 15 miles/hour. This technology will get faster and faster.
Myth #5: You can only make plastic junk from 3D printers. Not true. While some experts are fighting to make 3D printers faster, others are working on using different materials to feed into the 3D printer. Currently 3D printers can work with glass, metal alloys, stem cells (to make kidneys and other body parts) food, pharmaceuticals, plastics, dental materials, photo-polymers, resins, bacteria, and the list goes on and on.
Read How to 3D Print Money for the next five 3D printing Myths.