Diffusion of 3D Printing

Diffusion of 3D printing

The following graph plots 3D printing on the diffusion curve

As shown on the Graph, 3D printing is in the early adopter stage. Some industries are adopting 3D printing into their operations. These industries can be seen as lead innovators as they are taking this innovation and adapting it to their needs. In this page we will aim to show what industries use 3D printing and for what use. 3D printing is on the edge of the tipping point. 3D printers are coming down in price at a signifcant rate which will mean soon any consumer will be able to buy one (Krell, 2011). In the next 5-10 years 3D printing could be part of every household just like how normal  printers are (Krell,2011).

There are already many different companies from many different industries utilising 3D printing. It remains to be seen weheter the general public will use 3D printing like they use normal printers. Although there are various companies laying down the infrastructure for 3D printing, the general public are still unaware of 3D printing as a whole.

The lead-users

The great thing about  3D printing is that through online sources the lead-users can be anyone. Mass collaboration and open source software allows users to design new items and test the boundries of 3D printing. The following YouTube video desribes the impact that open source software has on new 3D printing designs.

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The lead users will allow 3D printing companies to find new ways in which 3D printing can be useful. In this video a person who utilised open source software had allowed the creators of MakerBot to test out new designs and test the boundaries of their 3D printer.

Entrepreneur Bill Gross utilised 3D printing to prototype things for his other companies. As such, he created a company that developed the 3D printer to make it more useful for his other businesses.

Competition Overview

In the manufacturing process industry, 3D printing predominantly competes with the traditional methods of manufacturing such as moulding, machining, milling and casting. Even though 3D printing has been around for a couple of decades it has only gained significant prominence over the last 3 years due to the introduction of very low cost 3D printers in the industry and has shifted focus from subtractive manufacturing methods to additive manufacturing methods with little or no waste involved. The market map below concisely shows where 3D printing stands in the metal manufacturing industry on the basis quality and cost of raw materials and cost of the process of manufacturing.

Even though injection moulding is the dominant process in the plastic manufacturing industry today, the high costs of equipment and making moulds make it unsuitable for lower-yield production. In addition, the precision and cost-effective production of 3D printing, make it a more lucrative process to manufacturers to invest in. With the growing awareness of the advantages 3D printing, it could fast become the dominant design for process manufacturing in aerospace, automobile, medicine and various other industries. All the aforementioned processes would be classed as indirect competitors to 3D printing as they offer the same end product through an entirely different process and most 3D printings firm believe that they do not face any real direct competition.

The different companies involved in 3D printing

Shapeways (3D printing marketplace)

A 3D printing marketplace similar to Ebay. Customers can set up their own shops and allow people to submit their designs to be printed off. Shapeways also offer their own printing service which negates the need for everyone to own a 3D printer.

Makerbot (3D manufacturers for the masses)

They build basic cheap 3D printers starting at $1,299. They rely on the general public to come up with designs to test the 3D printer to its limits and push its boundaries. By doing so Makerbot has been able to devleop better 3D printers.

AutoDesk (Software Development)

Apart from the hardware, the development of software for 3D printing is the most important aspect of 3D printing. AutoDesk are one of the biggest provider of software for 3D printing.

3D systems (3D manufacturing)

One of the biggest manufacturers of 3D printers. 3D systems sell things as well as 3D printers but it is biggest market segment. It sells to both businesses and consumers.

Sweet Onion Creations (Consultancy)

One of the first companies to create a 3D printing consultancy company. They specialise in rapid prototyping for companies such as architectural companies. They then sell other services around 3D printing and prototyping.

Contour Crafting (Construction)

Contour Construction are developing a large 3D printer that has the capability to build houses. It aims to to build houses just like lego is put together. They are utilising lead-users such as construction experts to develop a 3D printer suitable for use.

HP and Google

Some of the biggest companies are starting to get involved with 3D printing. Google has already developed free software called Sketchup which makes creating 3D designs easy. This further underlines the fact that industries are gearing up for 3D printing to be diffused into the early majority stage. HP have also started manufacturing 3D printers. With these companies advertising dollars, 3D printing will be pushed into the public space even further.

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