3D printing, the true and the false…

It will only be a matter of time before we all bring 3D printers to production sets, possibly to instantly build tools we need or forgot or broke.

The truth is, many major 3D printing companies were capitalizing on the public’s ignorance of 3D printers.

Having been to CES a couple years ago to hunt down the CEO of a [Kickstarter] company I backed[Max Lebovsky, Formlabs] I learned more than I ever could have expected about the state of consumer 3D printing.  This was just after several keystone consumer 3D printers showed up on kickstarter, including the Formlabs Form 1.  I ended up having a long conversation with Max about everything, including his start at MIT.  I also had conversations with executives from 3D Systems(the largest 3D printing company) and others at the show.  I ended up with some interesting information. 

One of the things I did was not spend so much time interviewing the companies, but observing and talking to the attendees, many of whom were there to write about 3D Printing.  There was plenty of misinformation to go around, and many of the attendees had no idea how to even understand what the capabilities of 3D Printing was.  One automotive tech writer I met at the show, who charged his clients $500 per paper on the subject, asked me to ghost write his paper on 3D Printing after realizing he was woefully inept at understanding the subject.  I explained to him that 3D Systems had mixed up their display models to confuse the attendees; there was no way for the attendees to know that the consumer models were different qualities than the professional models.  As far as Lebovsky and Formlabs, some strange things were afoot.  I got circumstantial information that Formlabs had a secret agreement with 3D Systems, the company that was supposed to be their nemesis and had them pinned in a lawsuit.  3D Systems now has a new management team, including a new CEO who was a leading researcher at Hewlett Packhard, so I think things have changed for the better there.  I want to go back and see how the new breed at 3D Systems is handling things.

Most misinformation seemed to come from established companies that had commercial models that competed with the consumer models, rather than the small ones.  The small ones, some of whom attended CES that year, had nothing to hide since they had no commercial 3D printers to compete with their consumer models.  Companies such as Dremel, whose core business isn’t 3D printing, were also technically helpful.  The fact is, you can get very good quality 3D prints out of inexpensive consumer 3D printers, you just have to know where to look.  Contact me for how to find a 3D printer to help your production.

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