I have been preparing an article “10 ideas for a new business in 3D printing industry” (which will be published soon), I came to the conclusion, that at first it’s worth to debunk some myths about additive technologies and 3d printing market. People who want to start to run a business in this industry, have often false imaginations about this technology or this specific market. Largely, big, mainstream media are guilty of that, because they create an image of 3D printing, but as we know, they never lie 🙂
Below I am presenting 10 most popular myths about 3D printing, which come to me during talks with people, who start their adventure with this technology.
1. 3D printing is a new technology
“3D printing was created 30 years ago” – it’s a content of the first slide which I show during my presentations. It doesn’t matter what I talk about – about the market, technologies or how does a 3D printer work, I always start with the information, that we talk about something, what was created in the 80s. Calling it a new technology is connected with the fact, that big media discovered it barely a few years ago and they classified it like something new.
In case that someone doesn’t know – the first concepts and researches connected with additive technologies started in the 70s of last century, while the first working 3D printer was created in 1984. Its creator was American Charles Hull – who established later 3D Systems. The first 3D printer printed from light hardened resin, so in SLA technology (stereolitography). What’s interesting, the whole 3D printing was called stereolitography than.
2. 3D printing is only printing from plastic
Among people, who start their adventure with 3D printing it’s popular to claim, that this technology allows to print from plastic. It’s because of that, that “an ordinary man” can see only low-budget devices printing in FDM technology, so from thermoplastics, called commonly “plastics”.
In reality, 3D printing is focused on creating solid object, using additive method. Briefly, a 3D printer creates objects “from zero” by puting building material layer by layer and bonding it with different methods.
You can call 5 main types of 5 printing:
- 3D printing from thermoplastics, so from plastic in form of wire (FDM),
- 3D printing from light hardened resins (SLA, DLP, PolyJet / MJM, CLIP)
- 3D printing from gypsum powder in full colour (CJP)
- druk 3D ze sproszkowanych tworzyw sztucznych lub metali, spajanych światłem lasera (SLS, DMLS)
- druk 3D z papieru lub folii, sklejanego lub zgrzewanego ze sobą warstwa po warstwie, z których plotowany jest kształt danego obiektu (LOM).
Every technology is different and has a different use. An ideal technology doesn’t exist. Of course, there are more types of technologies – when you consider 3D printing from metal, you can find a few indepentent methods. What is important – 3D printing in FDM technology, in the meaning of RepRap to is only low budget part of oneof five main additive technologies. Don’t let to talk you into beliving that it’s something special or dominating.
3. Everybody talks about 3D printing – it’s currently the hottest new technology
That’s not true. It’s still a deep niche dominated by narrow group of specialists. The main beneficiary of 3D printing are industry and advanced medicine – so the issues about which “an ordinary man” is hazy about. You rather don’t talk about 3D printers during dinner.
Media treat 3D printing like a curiosity and that’s why materials about it are showed in news or are published on websides, because they are a sensation and are memorable (for example: “a 3D printer was sent into space to print items at orbital station”).
4. In the future 3D printing will revolutionise everything what surrounds us, so “I heard that this 3D printer will print a house, a pizza or even a living human”
3D printing has revolutionised plenty of spheres of our life and a lot of people is not aware of it. Thanks to additive technologies used in quick prototyping a lot of productive processes of vehicles, planes or specialistic tools or machines were speeded up. Thanks to 3D printers it’s possible to carry out complicated surgical operations, you can print implants, which are impossible to produce using another methods.
But these things don’t concern an average “John Smith” (maybe in case of implants, but it’s an extreme case), so he is not aware of it, that this revolution still goes on. However, 3D printing of houses, food or organs are topics for media. They base on real occurences, but they are rather incidents or scientific researches.
5. Now it is a good time to start in 3D printing industry, because than it will be to late
From one side, if an idea is good and you can effectively put it into practice – it is nevet too late to start in any industry. Google succes then Yahoo and Alta Vista were on top.
On the other side, starting in a lot of spheres of 3D printing, is problematic and complicated. Let’s go back to the first point – 3D printing has existed for 32 years. The companies, which work in it, have strong positions and competing with them is diffucult. What decides about success of your idea, is not its price, but an innovation of offered products or services.
6. You can make money on 3D printing
Only in case, when your products are innovative. The next company selling low-budget 3D printers or offering 3D printing services, won’t earn money and will rather fight to survive.
7. If I buy a 3D printer, I will have orders right away
Yes, providing that you have a whole list of certain customers. If you think, that buying a 3D printer, means that you will be succeed or that customers will crowd in when they will hear a word “3D printer”, you bark up a wrong tree. You have to collect orders and than buy your own machine.
8. People need 3D prints
An interest in 3D prints is increasing. It doesn’t matter if they really need them or not – the problem is, that they still don’t know enough about it. In another words – a majority of potential customers doesn’t have a general idea about it.
Companies still prefer traditional methods to prepare prototypes – by using milling or casting. It happens because they are not aware of alternative methods. Let’s go back to the forth point – an average man imagines that a 3D printer can print houses, pizza or spare parts to spaceship, because it is showed in TV, newspapers or on the internet.
9. A quality of 3D print depends on printer’s abilities, not on a 3D printer
It’s the most popular slogan on webpages for constructors of 3D printers. Is it true? Yes, if you hava a hopeless 3D printer. If you have a good (but expensive) device, problems concern rather faults of your model or bad orientation on a workbed than settings of your 3D printer.
So, what is the origin of this slogan? Well, you have to remember, that people who write it are:
- amateurs, hobbyists, or jacks of all trades,
- users of cheap, low-budget 3D printers to self-assembly, printing in FDM technology, imported from China,
- users of cheap filaments.
It’s hard to explain them, that they aren’t right, because:
- they have never used a low-budget 3D printer from the top class like: Zortrax M200, Ultimaker, MakerBot, Up!’a, 3DGence, Monkeyfab PRIME etc. If they had used it, they would have known, that when you hae a good 3D printer and filaments, you just click on start and that’s it,
- they hve never used professional machines.
10. 3D printing must be cheap
3D printing must be expensive. Just because. It’s too niche to be cheap. What will happen when 3D printing will became cheaper? – A price war starts…
It doesn’t mean, that prices should be artificially raised. You gain customers with innovation, not with a low price. A low price should be the last resort.