Maybe. Beginning in mid-2014, key patents on the technology which govern 3D printing began to expire. This means that prices will fall on the industrial-grade machines and that innovation will expand dramatically. Or does it?
At the 2015 CES show, a huge range of printers were on display, including laser “sintering” devices in which metallic powders are deported and then laser “fired” into solid metal pieces. This means that small runs of even the most complicated industrial parts can be printed much more accurately than traditional machinery. What “everyone” was saying: 3D printing is the future of lots of industries – from wedding rings to artificial limbs.
But now, at the 2016 CES Show, what happened? As far as we can tell, not much. Yes, we see 3D printing machines sneaking in to many Early Stage business plans. But a lot of the plans, and the machines, are dusty. And if 3D printing is such a big idea, why don’t we see 3D printer sections at Lowe’s and Home Depot, or a whole line of devices at Grainger.com – where only two devices are shown?
Our guess: 3D printing is still a mediocre solution looking for low quality problems. The products you can product — beyond Star Wars key chains — are really of limited utility. The quality isn’t good enough for full production and the cost is too high for anything beyond the craft market. Where do we go from here? It’s not clear. But let me tell you about these fantastic new Virtual Reality goggles …
PHOTO NEEDED: 3D Printer