This week’s blog is by Julie Reece.
Consumer Electronics Show (CES) several days ago. I helped staff the 3D Systems Cubify™ booth in the 3D @Home section of the show, where we unveiled the new Cubify.com create-to-make ecosystem and the new Cube™ in-home 3D printer.
As most of you probably know by now, 3D Systems recently acquired Z Corp, and as a former Z Corper I was accustomed to staffing tradeshow booths targeted solely towards product designers, engineers, educators and architects with ZPrinters and ZScanners.
The CES experience really opened my eyes. The booth was absolutely packed during the entire four days of the show. Knowing that the show is geared towards products for the consumer, I expected visitors to be relatively unfamiliar with 3D printing, let alone the idea of 3D printing themselves, at home. And that certainly was true. People were absolutely blown away by the technology. “You made that with this?!” “This was 3D printed?!” I heard repeatedly, invariably followed by “Woah!” and pleasantly surprised laughter – hysterics actually. “But I don’t know how to make things in 3D CAD,” they would say. “No worries,” I replied, “You can simply download or modify (using incredibly intuitive developer-supplied apps) your file and we’ll print it using our cloud print service for you in any of our technologies, or you can purchase a Cube and simply print it in your home.” Followed by more “Woahs” and laughter and discussions with complete strangers standing next to them. They began to excitedly brainstorm all of the ways they could use 3D printing at home, followed by, “When can I buy one?”
If I had any doubts going into this show about whether or not true, in-home consumer 3D printing is here today, they quickly vanished. Last week I read several blog posts from additive manufacturing industry veterans (mostly engineers by training) who assert that consumer 3D printing is still many years away because the average consumer doesn't know how to design in 3D CAD and, even if they did, what would they use it for? They miss the point of the Cubify ecosystem of which the Cube 3D printer is merely one (albeit nifty) output device. Cubify is the iTunes and Facebook of the 3D printing world. The consumer doesn't have to know how to design in 3D CAD in order to have the option of printing at home or using the cloud print service. And if they had stood in the Cubify booth with me at CES, they would have heard all of the ways average consumers would use in-home 3D printing. People I spoke with talked about simply having fun with in-home 3D printing. They talked about using it as a teaching mechanism for their young children. They spoke of printing replacement parts for toys and games and of creating customized trinkets and gifts for family and friends. Understandably, industry veterans wouldn't necessarily view the possibilities from the average consumer's perspective, but from I saw first hand, that demand exists today.
YouTube video*about the ZScanned and ZPrinted functional wrench, but that’s about it. In fact, after visiting our booth for a few minutes, a number of engineers talked about putting a Cube 3D printer on every engineer’s desk at work for basic form prototyping, in addition to the larger, more industrial-strength 3D printers in their companies’ RP shops.
When and how did you first hear about 3D printing? When did you see your first 3D printer and first 3D printed part?
*The viral version of this video, with 8.7+ million hits was removed from YouTube.
I am responsible for leading 3D Systems content creation and capture activities and, in partnership with business and functional leaders, developing new opportunities for the company. I have held a variety of leadership positions in marketing and business development and most recently ran a $150MM division of Church & Dwight, a leading consumer goods company. Prior to receiving my M.B.A from Harvard Business School, I was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal company commander for the U.S. Army. I graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering.
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