3D Printer

Electronics Challenge: 3D Printers Are Not Consumer Products?

By Nadia Alvarado
Have you ever been in the middle of reading an article, when suddenly you dead-end on one sentence? That usually happens to me when I read an opinion or prediction phrased as a fact. I was reading an article in Wired about a 3D printer still in the design phase in HP's basement. Martin Fink, who runs HP Labs, was interviewed and in short, he said 3D printers are not consumer products and that HP didn't see significant practical consumer demand in the future. My immediate reaction: "really?"

Maybe Jameco is a little too focused on the world of 3D printing. The Five Things Not To Do With Your New 3D Printer article in our newsletter was one of the top read stories and we have a product update on the Velleman 3D Printer in this issue. Every year, 3D printers become slightly less expensive and the quality and speed of the machines improve. Our own Jameco team seems to be spending more and more time using our in-house 3D printer. Why wouldn't this product follow the same path as so many other technological advancements?

So as I read and re-read Fink's prediction, I kept thinking, "really?" It was only a generation ago that the idea everyone would have a computer in their home someday seemed ludicrous. Critics wondered, "Where are they going to keep something that big? Why would they need or want it?"

Fink pointed to the fact that today's 3D printers are painfully slow and typically produce what we might term as a "low resolution" product, but like all technology, this should improve. The assertion that consumers just don't need that much 3D printing in their lives may be true today, but I wonder if it will be true in the future.

Challenge: So here's where I need some help. Some say that the spreadsheet was the "killer app" the propelled the PC into a household item. What do you think the "killer app" for 3D printing will be? What will drive this technology into our homes?

Check out what our readers thought.

Nadia Alvarado has a master's degree in Journalism from Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree in Economics from San Diego State University. Her interests include comedy, comic books, board games, movies and watching too much TV.