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Hamish Champ is the editor of PRW. When not doinghis day job he finds time to ride his motorcycle, listen to Deep Purple and take his 12 year-old son to the cinema/park/football/pub...

3D printing and the Gartner 'Hype Cycle'

Posted on 25 November 2014

A year or so ago a somewhat incredulous Jeremy Paxman was shown the possibilities of 3D printing on live television.

A Gartner 'Hype Cycle'

He was clearly taken aback by the ability of a machine to print out an everyday object – a pen – in a matter of minutes/hours, along with claims from the 3D printing industry that soon everyone would be at it.

As is his wont Mr Paxman appeared sceptical that this sort of thing would take off as a commercially-viable enterprise and less likely still an attractive proposition for ordinary punters and whatnot.

Fast forward to today and in terms of widespread domestic use 3D printing still has its doubters, but perhaps the first step towards ‘a machine in every home’ started last week when Stratasys began selling one of its machines on Amazon.

The ‘Mojo Professional 3D Printer Starter Package’ retails at a ‘mere’ $5,999 (£3,828), and to be fair appears aimed at professional designers who want to be able to conveniently – and relatively cheaply – knock up a prototype, rather than consumers wishing to run off a model train or whatnot.

But like many technologies that start out being expensive, if 3D printing takes hold among 'ordinary punters' – and there is no guarantee either way – then the RRP is likely to come down to within the reach of many, rather than a few.

Thinking about this got me mulling over a thing called the ‘Hype Cycle’. Put together by market research company Gartner, a hype cycle – actually it’s more of a curve – assesses the introduction, potential and acceptance of a given technology.

According to Gartner the four phases of its cycle/curve are:

“Technology Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories — often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.

Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.

Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.

Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.”

I would suggest domestic 3D printing is somewhere in the early part of the curve. Many people beyond those involved in design and manufacturing are aware of it, but it has yet to ‘take hold’ in consumers’ consciousness.

And there is certainly a way to go before it reaches the ‘Plateau of Productivity’. But you never know…



Interesting re 3D printing, like you, I was intrigued by 3D printing; still am. It is in commercial use, Boeing being one notable user for low volume production parts. I have go and have a 3D printing demo very couple of years to se how things have improved; the big turn off for us commercially, is cycle time; if you can even use that phrase on a process that can take up to 8 hours to produce a part. The steps forward since early launch are impressive, better materials, better accuracy, more efficient use of the throwaway support material. The hobby world, especially stateside, has many enthusiasts building their own 3D printer, it's come a long way, but it's not there yet as you say; maybe Arburg's production attempt using an injection unit and conventional granules will point the possible way ahead? Regards Steve

- 25 November 2014 - Steve Lacey

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