Why people turn down the opportunity with 3D printing?
During the past year I have discussed with several industries and disciplines about the possibility to apply 3D printing technology in their activities in some form or another. I have been curious about the new opportunities and visions people create when they are faced with new technology, and also about the fears and sceptisism.
Metal 3D printed part
The discussions have taken place with people from manufacturing, construction, education, arts, making of musical instruments, bike builders, museums, designers, researchers, handcrafts, subcontracting, OEM, and many more.
In most cases the discussions and first reactions take similar paths: ”Our business is so conservative and traditional that I don’t see 3D printing coming into our activities in any way. The technology is far too expensive for us. And I believe, 3D printing is not mature enough or reliable for our business.” And they are right. This is of course the case when you come from a tradition and have established well-working and optimized practises.
Does this sound familiar? The experiences and encounters are more or less similar among all 3D printing evangelists and practitioners when they discuss with nonbelievers.
Simultaneously exploring the same industries and disciplines yields numerous examples and use cases how people already apply 3D printing in that specific application, industry, or discipline, and generate revenues with the new technology. The same observation emerges by looking at the industry forerunners and industry reports. 3D printing is applied in new areas and applications every day.
”No additive process (3D printing) can duplicate strength of the base material that could have been cast, moulded or machined from bar, let alone compete with the complex structures of composites” (Bike expert, 2013)
”First metal 3D printed bicycle frame”, ”Custom 3D printed titanium mountain bikes”, ”Robot Bike Company teams with AM experts on custom 3D printed bike frame”, ”Custom 3D Printed Carbon Fiber Bike Frame” (News titles on 3D printing and bikes, 2016)
What can we learn?
- Forerunners do change the industry. Whatever business you think of, there is already somebody applying or exploring 3D printing. The number of these forerunners is overwhelming. And they seem to turn exploration and demonstrations into new businesses very quickly.
- We are dealing with the phenomena of fast and slow thinking (Kahnemann). This is something deeply human which we can’t avoid. Fast thinking is automatic reaction that focuses on maintaining status quo and safety. It is often irrational and based on the incomplete, even conflicting, information that we have in the active memory. To my mind, forerunners are masters in slow thinking – combining and creating new information with deeper thought, and passing the phase of fast thinking without damage.
- There are knowledge gaps. It is obvious that most of us don’t know enough about 3D printing and current status. And why should we? The technology is developing fast and it is really worksome to get proper information beyond the hype texts, successful demonstrations (forgetting the failed ones) and videos.
- Consistency. It is interesting that the protective attitude against applying 3D printing is so similar across people and professions. Why guitar builders think that 3D printing will never come to their business? Why metal manufacturing company uses exactly the same words to turn down the opportunity?
Classic violin and 3D-printed electric violin 3DVarius play together
The industrial renaissance and digitalisation, where 3D printing is one essential element, is a great task for all educators, knowledge generators and advocates. We all will be challenged by the new opportunities, the inefficiency of old practices and by the new business models and economy that have started to emerge.
We must think slow.
Pekka Ketola, June 12, 2016
3DSTEP & ideascout. www.3dstep.fi