Jun 10, 2008
And Now for Something Completely Different:
By Pete Basiliere, Gartner
Often we are “heads down” on a project or operational issue, so focused that we lose sight of what’s going on around us. Therefore, it is critically important to make an effort to look up and, more importantly, look ahead. The print technology trends presentation that Don Dixon and I made at last year’s Print and Imaging Summit gave our audience a flavor of important developments to monitor. One such development was “3-D Printing,” which Gartner recognizes as one of the most disruptive emerging IT technologies.
Now, you may be asking yourself why 3-D printing is important to your high volume transaction output (HVTO) operation. The question really should be “If my CIO won’t invest in a 3-D printer, where do I find the money to do it myself?”
Consider that Gartner predicts the number of 3-D printers in businesses – and homes – will grow 75 fold by 2011. This growth is due, in part, on the traditional product prototyping that 3-D printers are so good at. Further, the manufacturers are driving down capital costs and increasing 3-D output quality. Indeed, the first sub-$10,000 3-D printer was recently introduced and Desktop Factory is beta testing a sub-$5,000 3-D printer.
3-D printing is taking off because of consumer, educational and specialized business applications. No longer used just by engineers designing mock-ups of new products, 3-D printer output is being sold to consumers (World of Warcraft™ avatars by Figureprints.com for $100.00), topographical maps for archeologists and historians (Landprint.com maps for as low as $23.95) and more. I foresee tremendous growth in the consumer market. Indeed, one retailer has a list with thousands of people waiting to have a model of their personal, $100.00 avatar built.
As costs decline and performance improves, 3-D printers will find their way into in-house print shops, HVTO or otherwise. Astute managers will see the potential and make the investment (or make arrangements with a service bureau) to produce models for the marketing and engineering departments. These HVTO organizations are the ones who are not satisfied with being a cost center but are transitioning to a value added profit center.
While 3-D Systems, Desktop Factory and Z Corporation are the face of the emerging 3-D print technology today, major technology providers are actively working behind the scenes. Canon, HP and Xerox are already involved while other major “2-D” printer technology providers are either monitoring the market or conducting their own research and development projects.
Yes, 3-D printing is something completely different but it is in your future. Check it out:
3D Systems >>>
Desktop Factory >>>
Z Corporation >>>