TCT Magazine publisher Duncan Wood opens the 3D Printing Conference at the 2015 International CES
What is not in doubt is that although 3D printing continues to attract headline writers across media, many of said writers are now able to see through the hype fog far better than they were two or three years ago.
As I said in my CES Conference opening last year the reality of 3D printing today is actually already better than the hype around what might be possible tomorrow.
You only have to listen to this presentation by Andy Christensen of 3D Systems on the healthcare sector to be reminded that 3D printing is still amazing, it still makes the previously impossible, possible.
But you don't need to pretend that it will change the entire world tomorrow when it is changing small parts of it today and for many people around the globe. The often touted big and wide reaching impacts will come, but not just yet. 3D printing is a complex technology, it takes time to make it work well, consistently and certainly for the consumer the day they use it as an everyday occurrance is still some way off.
But whilst the tech companies beaver away refining their technology which can be a long, and in some cases, laborious process of interation in skunk works and in some cases garages a different thought process is taking root in 3D printing land, and it is refreshing to see after so many years of litigation and fighting in the space over IP.
Collaboration is now a method of achieving growth and progress favoured by many companies in the space. It is not only acquisition, although there is still plenty of that too, but partnerships, communities and relationships that are now enabling new models to emerge, for adoption of the technology to be accelerated and for the technology to be made more accessible.
Take Autodesk's Spark platform, the list of partners is long and includes machine manufacturers, start-ups, industrial giants..all with a noble aim, put succinctly and well by Jeff Kowalski, Chief Technology Officer at Autodesk, “We want everyone to solve new problems with new solutions with less effort, better results, and greater expression reliably and with confidence and with good quality.”
Can adoption be increased? Can high standards be achieved in low cost machines? Can reliability be achieved in these stripped down machines without this sort of collaboration? Yes, of course but the pooled brains trust in these groups deliver an accelerated innovation process and this is what I see as a growing trend in this space.
Sure partnerships have always been there. But there is way more of it now. 3D Hubs is another example of collaboration, they now have over 10,000 machines on their network. This community delivers the opportunity for increased adoption far in excess of anything one man, or one company and a few machines could do.
So, it's a good thing, and an increasingly more prevalent thing which will accelerate the 3D Printing industry at new speeds, and that is what we should all be excited about, and that is not hype, thats the reality of today being better than the hype again.