Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Children will be the early adopters of 3D printing

Supermarkets are currently using children and the gathering behavior of humans to lure customers into their shops. By giving a collectable by every $20 of groceries to the customer for the children to collect they create an emotional buy-in. Children collect them, the swop them at school and you are not considered cool and part of the “inner crowd” when you cannot share in the fun of collecting and swapping. Parents always do want their children to fit in and for this reason they might even change their normal supermarket for another when their children are begging them for the latest collectable toys they get for free.

Looking at the way 3D printing is going we might see in the near future very affordable 3D printers. You can feed your 3D printer with a model and it will print it for you. If we combine this trend with the toys children get we will see in the near future that children will not get the toy itself however will get a QR code corresponding with a one-time print job for a 3D printer. Once scanned the model will be downloaded via a one-time download link and printed directly. After that the QR code will become invalid.

The impact of not giving away toys but giving away the model will make supermarkets and other vendors a whole new business model. It will also enable supermarkets adopt more and more this strategy because the only investment will be a downloadable 3D model and a QR code printed to a small coupon. The production and shipping of the toys is no longer on the costs of the supermarket but rather on the parents who will bring the QR code to their children and who will have to pay for the raw material for the 3D printer.

As soon as 3D printing becomes only a little bit more mainstream we will see that companies will adopt this and by doing so promote the purchase of 3D printing. Even though 3D printing is promising it is currently in its first stages of developing. However we will see this picked up in the coming years and not only merchandise will be printed, within the near future the business model of the “make industry” will change and we will see a lot more products which you can download from the net and print it yourself.

While this is considered a good deal for some it will also have its impact on other parts of the market and the industry. The make industry will notice this at first in the products which are produced cheaply in low price countries. The merchandise industry and the low end consumer products will see a shift of making them somewhere in China to downloading and printing it themselves. This has not only an impact on the production part of the chain but also on the logistical part of the chain as the products no longer need to be shipped.

This is something that will reshape the make industry and where we will see a lot of chains in currently standard ways of doing business. However, the road to adoption is via children and the merchandise from supermarkets.

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