We’ve been talking to a lot of people about our vision for AstroPrint and 3D Printing as a whole lately. Some people are still adverse to the technology and place too many expectations on what it should do to be successful. These are some of the most commonly asked questions by this crowd:
– What can you make that’s useful with a 3D Printer?
– Why would I spend $1,000 to make things that you can buy much cheaper at the store?
– Is the quality of the printed objects ever going to improve?
Why do we insist in judging 3D Printing based on utility and force ourselves to calculate the ROI of buying these machines? I propose that we start looking at these amazing machines as entertainment devices instead.
The 3D Printer as an entertainment device
Back in 2013 the CEO of Disney predicted a 3D printer in every home in under 10 years. I can see them releasing downloadable 3D Printable models used as marketing items for upcoming movies or as an after-marker add-on service in the form of accessories for the toys you buy for your kids. If you run a toy company, you need to start working 3D Printing into your strategy.
Dremel, a traditional tool company recently launched a 3D Printer: The Dremel Idea Builder. They very wisely positioned the machine as a device that you can create projects with. Their in-store video is amazing and very inspiring and speaks along these lines.
The results of some these projects will be useful on its own but most of the value it delivers is in the process of creating by printing and assembling the different parts.
The Joy of making
I’m going to use one of the latest designs uploaded to our marketplace 3DaGoGo. This sports car is a fun project to print and assemble. For $4.99 and some spare time, you can watch your own sports car being made out of bits and plastic. Then spend some quality time with your kids, cleaning up and assembling the pieces.
Once you’re done, you will have a car that you can show to people and say: “I made that”. I can guarantee that even though the quality of the finished product is not comparable to a similar car bought for $30 at a toy store, it will be immensely more valuable to YOU because “YOU made it”.
Beach head into the home
I believe that 3D Printing’s first beach head into the home is going to be toys and family projects. As the technology starts to get widespread adoption by average consumers, bigger companies will get involved and innovation in speed and quality will jump. Only then we will start to see the distributed in-home manufacturing vision that has been sold to us by the media.
Once people start to accept and experience 3D Printers as entertainment devices, I believe its adoption beyond the maker and hobbyist community is inevitable.