Competitive 3D Print

This Year’s IDSA National Conference is themed DIY: Threat or Opportunity.

Seriously? Wasn’t the time for this about 4 years ago when talking about it could have actually made a difference in how things played out? We’re already at the “DIY: how to stay in business by not sucking” point. The answer to IDSA’s question is already here. DIY is absolutely an opportunity for anyone who is excited about the new technologies available to us and wants to experience what it’s like to help shape the future. It is only a threat to those interested in maintaining antiquated systems for getting ideas to users. If you like how things have been for the last 20 years (I know, it’s longer, but how much is open to interpretation), well, tough cookies. The good news is that you won’t be in business much longer anyway, so you won’t have to worry about what happens after that.

Ok. I’m coming off a little strong about it. And the changes won’t be overnight, but they are coming. And it’s a good thing. $3000 just became the entry price for a competitive 3D printer. I no longer need injection molding to get a plastic part run off. And now I don’t have to over-produce to hit a price point per item. Is there still opportunity for designers here? Oh, yeah. Now more than ever. Any of us with a good (or bad) design can get a product to market. The designers should have the advantage. We should be able to get better products to the market. If there’s a demand for it, it is risk free to move to a larger production run.

Tad Toulis told me this weekend that there is a kid in China that has an Alias seat and can do what I can do without my fancy schmancy degree. Sadly, I’m pretty sure it’s true. One of the biggest differences between a designer and an amateur is practice. Technology is getting cheaper and that means that the access to the equipment and tech to “practice” is becoming widespread. So what to do?

Figure out how to do more than draw pretty pictures. Don’t depend on the history of design to keep you employed, depend on your skills to keep you employed. Figure out how the new technologies are changing things and put yourself at the front of the industry. Or keep designing plastic trinkets for injection molding until you’re out of a job. Your call.