Do you remember the fever around 3D printing? Evangelists heralded a brave new world spearheaded by 3D printing technology. Makers, hobbyists, and strangled researchers took on to the innovation and started hacking it to suit their needs.
Everyone deemed the technology as disruptive. However, we rarely hear about it anymore. Has it disappeared? Do manufacturers use it? Was it a fad or the real deal?
3D printing technology is the perfect poster boy for disruption. Much praised by visionaries, much forgotten after the fact. But the technology is still around, and incumbents are already feeling its disruptive power.
It sets a great example of how to think about technology. 3D printing technology was first catered to an underserved market, hobbyists, and makers. The high-end market, equipped with power-tools, sniffed at the low quality and restrictions of the technology. Makers though, incapable of coughing 350.000 dollars for a casting machine, embraced the innovation. The hallmark of disruption is always similar. Underserved market and underperforming technology with plenty of potentials to improve.
While incumbent manufacturers discarded 3D printing as a playful tool, innovation in new materials and printing techniques was propelling the disruption.
The beginnings are always harsh, and while visionaries can imagine new scenarios, reality takes time to catch up. The first use of the technology was around rapid prototyping and consumer “toys.” Speed and quality were huge impediments.