Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wrong Analogy For Why 3D Printing Will "Never Go Mainstream"

Barry Randall writes:

'But getting consumers to buy millions of these devices isn’t about the price of the box. It’s about the time and effort necessary to make anything useful. As for effort, consider that industrial design is done by professionals with years of education and practical experience. Capable designers make high five-figure salaries. Because of the high labor expense of industrial design, there has already been sufficient motivation to create easy-to-use CAD-CAM software.

And yet none exists. Catia, AutoCAD, Creo and other CAD programs are powerful, but as yet they have not become easy to use, even for professionals. So the idea that the existence of cheap 3D printing will somehow beget easy-to-use design software is delusional.

Some have compared the arrival of cheap 3D printers with that of cheap word-processing software and ink-jet printers 30 years ago. But that was different, because typing was a skill already possessed by the majority of educated adults, and people were already comfortable with the process of creating documents. The PC/WordPerfect combo simply facilitated something that was already happening on a large scale. But the ability to use even rudimentary 3D design software is not a common skill, nor is it one picked up easily. There’s a reason why computer-aided design is a white collar profession, while the ability to type used to qualify a person for… the typing pool.'

The analogy is all wrong. Using this analogy, Randall would have predicted that CD-ROM burners would not become successful consumer products because most people don't know how to compose and record music.

Most of us didn't buy computers with CD burners so we could create CDs with music we had the time, passion, and expertise to compose and record. We bought them so we could create CDs with music someone else had the time, passion, and expertise to compose and record.

Most of us won't design the things we print with our 3D printers. We'll download the designs from the Internet just like we did with music. We'll be able to make cheap copies of a lot more than media. Like the traditional recording and motion picture industries, expect the new array of companies and industries whose business models are threatened by this shift to support SOPA and PIPA-like legislation to try to stop the world from changing.

Too late. You can't.