Research and development is a key investment area in terms of money, time and manpower for a growing industry such as additive manufacturing, which is why companies dipping their toes in this exciting marketplace are making full use of Econolyst, the UK-based additive manufacturing and 3D printing consultancy and research firm.
Managing Director of Econolyst Dr Phil Reeves - who will be speaking at TCT Show + Personalize this September - recognises the importance of research and development, and series production. His company consults organisations across a broad spectrum of sectors and it is this along with his two decades of experience in the additive manufacturing field that makes him one of the industry's heavyweight thinkers.
In what is bound to be a grey matter-stimulating presentation, Reeves has revealed that he will discuss why he feels consumer and so-called 'prosumer' - the professional consumer - 3D printers are failing to hit the mark on a number of levels.
Providing ammunition for the enlightened
Entitled Prosumer 3D Printing: Is it Really Production-Ready? Reeves will launch the debate by looking at the hype surrounding consumer 3D printing, including a review of business scale, worth and penetration. He will then investigate both the technical and economic shortcomings of the technology, before giving some "uplifting examples of where the technology has made a real impact on people's lives".
The presentation will then look into the future landscape for prosumer 3D printing and the potential for technology convergence between entry-level technologies and their "commercial big brothers" which are being used by the industry.
Reeves stated: "This talk is likely to upset consumer 3D printing evangelists, nullify realists and provide ammunition for the enlightened 3D printing professional looking to dispel myths and rumours with fact and science."
It is clear by his tone that these are themes that mean a great deal to the additive manufacturing expert personally, particularly as somebody who has witnessed and been involved in the growth of the technology over the past 20 years. It also seems that for Reeves, like many of his industry peers, the recent boom in interest in the technology led by the mainstream media's obsession with the push-button technology has misrepresented what is really a highly technical, precise and flexible manufacturing subset.
"I just want to put some facts and science against all the myths and hype surrounding consumer 3D printing," he remarked. "Although increased media interest is great, I feel we are being set up for a big fall. When people realise the limitations of the technology they will start to 'cry foul'."
Reeves added that he is not one to dismiss the commercial side of 3D printing, which has certainly proven to be a growth booster in recent months and years, but suggested that expectation management needs to be applied across the board.
"We need to apply realism now. Commercial additive manufacturing is amazing, but it is getting overshadowed by the consumer stuff. We need to redress the balance and make sure the industry understands the capabilities and constraints of the technology," he stated, adding, "We need more airtime for industrial applications and business case studies - not just people making shapes and calling them products."
"A good platform"
Reeves is certainly qualified to hold these opinions, the expert recently worked alongside multinational technology and consulting corporation IBM on an in-depth study entitled The New Software-Defined Supply Chain: Preparing for the disruptive transformation of electronics design and manufacturing, which examined the impact of 3D printing, open-source electronics and intelligent robotics on 100 years of traditional manufacturing.
The Managing Director is proud of this project, one of many involving big organisations and their future business and technology strategies. Reeves gained his PhD in advanced manufacturing in the mid '90s from Nottingham University and has worked continuously in this field, eventually establishing Econolyst in 2003.
And he believes TCT Show + Personalize on September 25th and 26th will be a good place for him to air his views and indeed put forward his argument that the hype surrounding consumer 3D printing must be capped, allowing for the acknowledgement of limitations and understanding the true and remarkable capabilities of the technology.
"TCT is a good platform," he said," As it attracts a wide range of visitors both experienced and novice. It is also great for networking."
Reeves is a businessman and understands the importance of getting to know other players in the industry and admitted that the meet-and-greet aspect of the Show is something he is looking forward to.
"I will drop in on some of the other presentations and browse the stands - and hopefully get some quality networking done," he said when considering how he will be spending his time at the event off-stage.
Dr Reeves will be stepping behind the mic on September 26th on the afternoon of the final day of TCT Show + Personalize.