Exploring Additive Manufacturing: Potential, Limitations, and Insights by Extol’s Kyle Harvey


Can 3D printing cross the chasm?

I’m reading an interesting post on LinkedIn by Kyle Harvey about additive manufacturing crossing the chasm.

Harvey is the Additive Manufacturing Business Manager at Extol, a Michigan-based manufacturing technology company.

The “chasm” Harvey refers to is a classic business concept developed by Geoffrey A. Moore that explains why some technological companies seem to stall during their growth phase rather than continue their trajectory upwards.

Early adopters are generally more open to experimenting with technology and dealing with discomfort or challenges that may arise than the average person. This can create confusion for startup companies who might wrongly believe that success with this early adopter group translates to success with the broader population.

The reality is, the broader population often demonstrates less patience for technological quirks and irregularities. Companies that do not address these issues often experience stagnation. In many cases, they are then surpassed by competitors that have identified and addressed this need, thus creating technology more accessible and appealing to the larger public.

A clear illustration of this is the evolution of the cellphone. There was a period when only a minority used them. The deterrents were many – they were bulky, lacked functionality, were difficult to purchase, offered limited coverage, and were expensive. Unsurprisingly, they saw limited use during the initial years of the 1980s.

Big old cellphone [Source: YouTube]

But now everyone has them. What happened? Someone (in this case Apple and RIM) somehow figured out how to address the needs of the public and the technology then launched into orbit, crossing the chasm. The companies that didn’t do so, died.

Back to 3D printing.

In the past year or so there has been little visible progress in the industry overall. Revenues have been mostly flat, valuations down, and companies disappearing or merging with others. There’s also plenty of discussion about why this has happened to a technology that at one point was hyped to the max.

Some propose that “additive manufacturing can’t cross the chasm”.

It’s feasible, although Harvey offers a solution to this assumption:

“Instead of studying the growth curve of additive manufacturing as an entire industry, we need to shift our focus. The technique is simply a means of production.

Our emphasis should be on understanding the innovation trajectory of each unique application enabled by additive manufacturing. If we approach it this way, we find that a sufficient number of these individual applications have yet to cross the bridge to fully realize the ambitious promises and hype of the AM industry as a whole.”

The correct response is that there are numerous completely adopted applications like dental aligners, rocket engines, prosthetics, certain aerospace parts, and many others. It isn’t fair to say that the entire industry has reached a standstill when there are several specific success stories.

The process of a technology’s evolution requires extensive experimentation to discover the appropriate set of applications. Many of these ventures fail, but in doing so, they establish the boundaries of what is and isn’t possible.

It appears that certain investors were of the opinion that the technology could tackle some larger scale applications in manufacturing. However, experience has now shown that this is quite difficult. The disappointment is obvious, but we’ve gained an insight we didn’t previously have: to corner those use-cases, something needs to be altered.

This is why I am enthusiastic about failures: they outline a technical problem that others will strive to resolve. While many will fail, some will triumph.

The crux of the matter is that, for some uses, we may have hit the upper limit of the existing 3D printing technology. This suggests that we require NEW technology to fully exploit these arenas.

Let’s get working on it!

Via LinkedIn

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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Meet the mastermind behind NozzleNerds.com: GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.


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