Mainstream adoption of 3-D printing may be closer than expected.
Recent research from Gartner claims that 3-D printing is still at least five years away from mainstream consumer adoption, which “will be outpaced by business and medical applications that have more compelling use cases in the short term.”
The truth is that we are already starting to see businesses, both large and small, take advantage of 3-D printers to create customized designs or follow blueprints. The real appeal lies in speedy prototyping and increased accessibility.
3-D printing allows businesses to really bring their ideas to life in a convenient and immediate fashion -- makers can go directly from design to manufacturing. Additional benefits of 3-D printers in business are lower prototype and production costs and more creative and customized packaging options.
With the technology rapidly improving to include more features while also becoming more affordable, 3-D printers are becoming increasingly accessible for mainstream adoption. For entrepreneurs and small-business owners, it is also starting to define modern manufacturing and how businesses will run in the future.
According to a recent study conducted by my company, Robox, consumers would be three times more likely to invent and prototype new products or technologies if they had a 3-D printer at home. The reality is that entrepreneurs and small startups can now create a legitimate business from their homes with a 3-D printer.
Take it from 27-year-old Curtis Ingleton, who founded and currently runs a 3-D printing production and service house out of his house.
"We have four people in our company and we can do what some well-established Chinese manufacturers can do,” he said.
That’s impressive, and paves the way for other young startups and small businesses to accomplish the same.
With major retailers such as Staples, Home Depot and UPS rolling out 3-D printing services in select stores, the technology is becoming much more accessible for both small-business owners as well as the average consumer.
Bloomberg states that “Though the devices aren’t likely to create a major new source of revenue [for Home Depot], the chain is betting that they’ll appeal to forward-thinking contractors and do-it-yourselfers.”
Entrepreneurs and DIY enthusiasts are all obvious fits for a 3-D printer given its ability to customize or invent any item on the spot. Even Martha Stewart made a public appearance at this year’s International CES back in January to peruse the 30 booths for 3-D printers in search of one to use for her business and everyday DIY activities.
Overall, with more people exposed to 3-D printing and the idea of it being easily accessible in the office or home, there’s a huge amount of potential to see more entrepreneurs and small-business owners designing and developing truly unique and effective new items that better the lives of everyday consumers.
3-D printing has the potential to significantly shift traditional business models, as entrepreneurs can now also become manufacturers, eliminating the need for warehousing and multiple distributions of products and parts.
The key to blending business and 3-D printing technology together in harmony relies on how accessible, adaptable and customizable the devices are. From there, mainstream adoption will come in no time.