Layer by Layer: the Business of 3D Printing
Did you know that every continent has a burgeoning 3D printing scene?
The industry is getting so big that the world can not contain this technology, so we put it in a space shuttle to see if the technology would work in zero G. And it worked beautifully!
Additive manufacturing is burning like a wildfire in a variety of industries, from fashion to medicine to Food and Art. In fact a comprehensive report of the 3D printing industry was released last month by 3D printing servicer Sculpteo and it found that 68% of the participants indicated that they will increase their additive manufacturing budget in the coming year. In addition to that percentage the survey also shows that 32% of the participants represented companies which generate $500K – $20M in revenue per year. To see the full report visit click here: State of 3D Printing (36 pp., opt-in)
Because the survey was anonymous we cannot be certain of who is represented but companies like Nike, Boeing, and Hershey’s have already implemented 3D printing into their businesses model, and Nike specifically has applied for patents this year pertaining to 3D printing technology. Nike has also publically stated that they will be ramping up their spending in the additive manufacturing arena this year.
There were over 16 verticals represented in the State of 3D printing report from retail to maritime, and the natural next question is why? Why is 3D printing so popular now, and why is it so wide spread?
The simple answer is that several patents regarding this technology expired in 2009, and as a result new companies started to sprout up seemingly overnight. Young companies that jumped on this opportunity and did well for themselves were either purchased or sued by veteran companies with patents that were still valid. It was a real feeding frenzy for a while. “Print the Legend” is a documentary on Netflix that highlights this time in the 3D printing industry.
It also follows the moments leading up to personal desktop 3D printing juggernaut MakerBot going public. This was a crystallizing moment in the industry because it sent a very clear message that there is wealth in this industry for those willing to take risks. The doors and windows to opportunity are still wide open in this industry.
For companies such as Boeing, Hasbro, Nike, Ford, General Electric, Hershey… etc now is the time to save money by cutting traditional manufacturing costs. But for entrepreneurs now is the time to take calculated risks. Taking an idea from conception to prototype has never been easier than it is today, crowdfunded or crowdsourced ideas have gone on to receive considerable investments from well-known companies thanks to additive manufacturing. Google awarded $600,000 to the Enable Community Foundation which connects people who want upper-limb prosthetics with people who can design and print them for free. Metal 3D printing startup MatterFabb rose $5.75M from GE Ventures late last month.
As the practical application of this technology improves (i.e. “wearable technology” and “the internet of things”) this industry will no doubt experience a second boom especially with more patents for SLS style printing expiring. This second 3D printing resurgence will be perhaps larger than the first and I for one cannot wait to see how it affects companies, technology and the economic market long term.