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Consumers Not Impressed With 3D Printing 302

Lucas123 (935744) writes "Putting a 3D printer beside the coffee maker in every home, as some manufacturers hope will happen someday, is a long ways from reality as consumers today still don't understand how the technology will benefit them, according to a new study. The study, by Juniper Research, states that part of the problem is that killer applications with the appropriate eco-system of software, apps and materials have yet to be identified and communicated to potential users. And, even though HP has announced its intention to enter the 3D printing space (possibly this fall) a massive, mainstream corporation isn't likely to change the market."
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Consumers Not Impressed With 3D Printing

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  • Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:10PM (#46834931)

    Whining about lack of software as a roadblock to mass adoption of home 3D printing is absurd at this point in time.

    Inexpensive 3D printing is still barely more than a toy for hobbyists. I have one (mendlemax 2), and while I love playing with it, I recognize it for what it is.

    The path forward as I see it for home 3D printing is:

    - spend a long damn time in the hobbyist domain
    - eventually capabilities will hit a point where actual useful products can be produced, but it will still be way more effort to do so than to buy the equivilant mass-produced item.
    - small niche markets will open up offering custom things and replacement parts that are no long available. I forsee a long period of time where 3D printing is practical, but at a small business level rather than a home level. The "bring your model down to staples" phase if you will.
    - eventually some people will start using these services regularily and start dreaming of having one at home
    - this is when 3D printing at home really takes off

    This is however so far away that I may not be alive to see it. When the time comes, I'm sure someone will whip up a slick UI...

  • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:12PM (#46834951) Homepage
    It's the same deal with photo printers. It's much easier and cheaper to go down to Walmart or Costco when you need to print out your photos and get them to use their professional quality machines to do the job. I think that 3D printers will end up in the same sport. You'll go down to Walmart, and get them to print out an item for you. You'll only need it maybe 5 times a year, so there's no point in owning your own 3D printer. There's already services where you can send a 3D file and somebody will print it out and ship it to you.
  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:14PM (#46834983)

    But I'm sure scumbag companies will ruin this otherwise good idea by somehow requiring the printers to have DRM or random restrictions.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) * on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:17PM (#46835009) Journal

    The path forward as I see it for home 3D printing is:

    You forgot the part where people find a way to use it for sexual gratification. New technology meets yesterday's primal urges. Same story, different day.

  • Apt quote (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SteveFoerster ( 136027 ) <steve&stevefoerster,com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:19PM (#46835033) Homepage

    “If I'd asked my customers what they wanted, they'd have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford

  • by Talderas ( 1212466 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835043)

    Load file.
    Press print.

    Yeah, real inspiration.

  • Custom lego parts! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Servaas ( 1050156 ) <captivayayNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835047)

    Take my money now!

  • by WrongMonkey ( 1027334 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:20PM (#46835051)
    3-D is ok for a one-off prototype. But who needs a $1000 device that takes hours to print a happy meal toy?
  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:24PM (#46835085)

    Right now we have a consumer culture that doesn't really teach people to make and repair their own things (which is what a 3D printing would mostly be useful for). So while a 3D printer might someday be useful for a mechanic who needs to make car parts or a shoe salesmen who needs to make a custom shoe, most people are still expecting to go to someone else to get those things. As the technology improves and can make more things (metal parts, rubber, glass, composites) and people get more used to it, we may see the market for the technology grow, assuming it isn't outlawed first.

  • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:40PM (#46835209) Homepage

    I think if you want to sell them to people, you may need a useful consumer application first. I don't mean "application" like a software program. I mean a use-case.

    Really, right now, 3D printing has been developed and marketed for hobbyists, even if the marketing people didn't know that's what they were doing. They've said, "Make your own designs and share them with others!" Admittedly, that's great stuff, but most people don't want to design their own products. They want their products to be designed by someone who knows what they're doing.

    So if... Let's say Amazon released a 3D printer, along with an extensive library of real, useful products that could be printed out-of-the-box, without any difficult setup or calibration, then you might have a product. It would have to be something like, "I unpacked it from the box and plugged it in. And then the next day, I was shopping on Amazon, and along with the option to 'buy' the doodad I wanted for $11, there was an option to 'print' for free! I even got to select my color." That there is a workable business model. Sell the printers, sell the printing material, as well as selling the same products via mail-order for those who don't own a printer.

    Of course, there's an obvious objection that occurs to me: Someone might say, "But can you really make a whole Amazon store of objects that can also be printed? Sure, I can print out some crappy little plastic toy, but nobody is going to bother to buy that same thing online!" Well there's your problem right there. If you can't come up with a large selection of real products that can be printed with these things, products which people would otherwise buy from retail/online stores, then the printer is not a consumer product. It's a more of a toy, or a machine that hobbyists can use to produce things, or businesses can use for prototyping or other purposes.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aix tom ( 902140 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:42PM (#46835223)

    On the other hand, 15 years ago about ~90% of my friends who had computers had printers at home to print their photos, these days none of them has (including me).

    Take your memory stick to the local supermarket or photo shop to get high-quality prints from a working, regularly serviced photo printing machine is cheaper and the quality is better. The same way I print Photos maybe 5-10 times a year at most, I can't imagine I would need/want to 3D print something that often that having my own 3D printer would make sense.

  • Kinko's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:43PM (#46835231)

    When I can pick up a dishwasher replacement part printed out by Whirlpool at my local kinko's and it costs less and is just as good as a cast one then 3D printing will have arrived. Till then it's for hobbyists and specialist.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:43PM (#46835233) Homepage Journal

    3D printing is a prototyping tool, not a serious production tool.

    It's flying cars all over again, man.

  • Re:Well DUH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:55PM (#46835345)

    'As soon as people learn that they can print a new battery cover for a remote control, or replace a small broken part of a kid's favorite toy, or some amazing thing no one has yet thought of, they'll start picking up.'

    But they can't.
    Unless that was your point.
    Take your average consumer, and give them a 3d modelling package.
    Ask them to make a battery cover.
    It needs to fit precisely in the hole - often to +-0.2mm tolerances or it won't slide in right.
    It needs to have a properly designed 'spring' or it's going to fall off again.
    They don't have an accurate metrology thing that would let them measure the size of the hole.
    They are at best inexperienced when trying to run 3d modelling software, much of which is at best challenging to use.

    It's going to take most people quite a while before they can actually print something that fits.

    This may well be too high a barrier to entry.

    Printing things from thingiverse et al is another matter.

    At the moment, a 'Customers not impressed with CNC lathes' story would make almost as much sense.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:56PM (#46835365)

    The current "hobbyist" 3D printers are utter crap and they help you create things that are utter crap. Basically they squeeze hot plastic out like toothpaste into strange shapes, so the finished product ends up being fragile and bumpy. However a professional grade 3D printer can create some really nice stuff (with a very different technique) but the price range is nowhere close to be in the home.

    In a way this is like the early computer days. Useful machines were in universities, corporations, and labs, but in homes a few hobbyists were getting excited about expensive 8 bit toys that didn't do much of anything useful except to play with it and start to learn stuff.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @03:59PM (#46835399)

    Plastic has been the staple of the car industry for a few decades now, long enough that soon even "classics" will be made mostly of plastic. Wait a decade or two and the "classics" you restore will need plastic parts.

  • by Fulminata ( 999320 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:00PM (#46835403)
    That would have been the headline in the 70s. This is why consumers don't generally drive innovation, and why judging the prospects of a new technology before its had time to overcome some of its early weaknesses is premature.
  • Re:Premature much (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:09PM (#46835483)

    What I don't get is... what would you even print? If I think about the things that I interact with on a daily basis that could be 3D printed with what I know about today's technology, I come up with a pretty small list...

  • Re:Well DUH (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @04:33PM (#46835663)

    Or, you could just continue doing what people do today: tape it back on. Total expense, tenth of a cent. Total time spent, 15 seconds.

    If those kinds of things are what people are hanging their visions on, forget it.

  • by umafuckit ( 2980809 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @05:01PM (#46835893)
    They're called "3-D printers" to make them sound cool and imply they are an easy to use natural extension of ink/laser printers. But they're no such thing and consumers can see that and are confuse by it. 3-D printers are automated tools in the same way a CNC milling machine is an automated tool. In fact, they'd be better described as "CNC extruders" than as "3-D printers", since they have sod all to do with printing on paper. Does your generic consumer have a need for a "CNC extruder"? No he/she does not.

    These machines are for people who want to build new stuff. They're tools for machinists and others who want to work with wood, plastic or metal. People who have workshop in their garage. i.e. They're tools for people who know they need them. Furthermore, because they're the current "in" thing, they're being used in instances where a CNC milling machine would have been far more appropriate. This stupid crap with 3-D printed guns, for instance.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LinuxIsGarbage ( 1658307 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @06:23PM (#46836535)

    I agree with most of what you say. I also own a 3D printer (Solidoodle 3)

    I see two main things that are keeping 3d printing from really taking off in the home. Once they solve these two issues it should really take off. There are other minor issues that need to be addressed as well, but the two issues that need to be fixed are : Speed and Reliability. I've designed up a product that I would like to print, but it takes 1.5 hours to print, and that is if it makes it fully through the print. Issues with warping, clogging, overheating, etc... are the main concerns about reliability.

    I would be happy if they could cut my print time in half, but it's the current limitation of the technology being used in the home market. Some other technology is going to have to be used in order to overcome both issues, but those technologies are currently out of the budget for home users.

    Unlike the post above, I do think it will happen in my lifetime though.

    I'm somewhat reminded of early '90s CD-R burning. Rigs like this: http://www.cbronline.com/news/... [cbronline.com] were $32500 1991 dollars ($55,000 2014 dollars) if you breathed on them you would lose your $100+ CD-R. Mid '90s saw $1000 CD-R drives. Come the late 1990s CD-RW drives were $300 with buffers, but still the occasional buffer-underrun. Now a DVD burner is $20 and comes with BURN-Proof underrun tech.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <slashdot-2017q4@virtual-estates.net> on Thursday April 24, 2014 @07:15PM (#46837019) Homepage Journal

    I dunno. Speed would not be high on my list of priorities. My dishwasher takes over 2 hours to wash the load, and that's acceptable. The reliability — which you mention second — is much more important in my opinion.

    And then comes the standardization of the data-files and of the raw materials.

    I would not mind paying a designer of a printable widget for his work — so a DRM of some kind would be alright, even if irritating. Because I'd still be able to have the piece in a couple of hours after buying it, instead of waiting at least a day for the (expensive) overnight shipping.

  • Re:Premature much (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Thursday April 24, 2014 @10:43PM (#46838157)

    But I'm sure scumbag companies will ruin this otherwise good idea by somehow requiring the printers to have DRM

    It's going to be the government passing regulations that 3D printers available to consumers have tamper-proof measures to prevent consumers from easily having direct control over them, AND...

    requiring that only digitally signed 3D part designs can be printed --- which will have been through a regulated approval process, to ensure that the parts can't be used to construct a weapon such as "Liberator" 3d printed gun, or other dangerous or concealable weapons

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann