The End of an Era: How the 4th Industrial Revolution Killed 3D Printing Evangelism and Turned Them into Saints


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We’ve previously discussed how 3D printing, initially propelled by investor funding, underwent gradual expansion when only focusing on adventurous early adopters. Speedy applications might be a possible trigger for quicker industry development. But as the additive manufacturing (AM) industry morphs into 3D printing, it needs to discard certain immature flaws – conduct, habits, and individuals that obstruct our march towards a grander, more sophisticated industry.

Robbers of Our Tomorrow

The 3D printing industry’s rise to prominence has hit snags, affected by intricate macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns. The saying, “May you live in interesting times,” usually seen as a curse, mirrors our taxing times. Not all hurdles are our creation, but some certainly result from our leniency towards dishonest individuals in our midst. We’ve permitted liars, opportunists, and PT Barnums too much freedom. Their existence, perpetuated by our silence and compliance, has impeded our development. As we launch into a new stage, concentrating on the creation of crucial components like aircraft parts and medical implants, it’s crucial to disengage from these harmful influences. Amid our industry’s expansionist phase, it was natural to neglect the deleterious impact of such characters, confusing them for necessary fuel for our growth. But as we progress, the urgency to grow up becomes palpable. The persistent existence of these corrupt figures threatens not only our reputation but our prospects as well.

Recognizing that tolerating these destructive forces any further could snuff out the very innovation we aim to foster is essential. The moment has arrived to move past our teenage imperfections and welcome a future free from those who pose a risk to our path. This is a critical time to confirm our dedication to moral development and responsible expansion in a sector increasingly valuable to numerous key applications.

Olive Trees not Branches

There’s a considerable problem with the way our sector is viewed due to some people haphazardly making lofty promises without comprehensive knowledge about the technology. These individuals, with their exaggerated assertions, have misguided us, portraying 3D printing as a magical, all-healing solution. One silver lining regarding these “3D printing enthusiasts” is the knowledge from sacred scripts that most of them meet abysmal ends. But, the real situation is far from what they painted. 3D printing is not a panacea; it’s not a fraud or a magic elixir that can instantly revolutionize businesses. It’s not an easy, all-encompassing remedy for corporate inertia. 3D printing isn’t a miracle worker for stagnant companies. It’s not like taking two drops of 3D printing in the morning will magically make you innovative and thriving.

The Xtra Large is the Message

3D printing is a piece of equipment, a piece of technology filled with complexities and subtleties. Every process within it significantly differs, affected by a myriad of factors across machines, materials, and blueprints. It’s a potent tool, but its real potential can only be harnessed by those ready to dedicate significant time and effort to comprehend its complexities. The fact about 3D printing is that it’s neither effortless nor linear, and many aspects of it are still undiscovered territory. We recognize that while it can manufacture a broad range of products, perfection in everything it creates isn’t always possible.

While some may see 3D printing as a revolutionary panacea, it’s not as straightforward as they make it seem. It’s been oversold as an easy answer to various business problems, but this depiction often leads to unsatisfied expectations. Cases of unsuccessful projects, overhyped machinery, and unrealized concepts are plentiful.

It’s crucial for us to speak truthfully about these misunderstandings, making clear the hurdles, intricacies, and investments required to tap into the full potential of 3D printing. Finally, it’s time we moved from the erroneous belief of it being a “magic wand” to a more precise portrayal: “3D printing is an innovative technology crafted for specific shapes; it’s better than conventional methods for certain uses,” and “even though it’s a challenge to master, it’s a manufacturing method capable of generating millions of indispensable parts.” Our narrative should underline that while 3D printing isn’t universally user-friendly, it can hugely benefit those who manage to master it. Steering clear from overgeneralizations will create realistic expectations of what the technology truly offers.

Experts and Nelson Mandela

We tend to be dubious when it comes to gurus, especially in a personal context. Then why do we let self-proclaimed experts slide on social media platforms, such as LinkedIn? Why bother with individuals who brag endlessly about themselves on their profiles, tagging themselves as prize-winning leaders or path-breaking innovators? Let’s take Nelson Mandela as an example. Despite being one of the most revered personalities worldwide, had he been on LinkedIn, would he have referred to himself as an “inspirational hero,” “prize-winning author,” “guru,” or “Ex-President of South Africa?” He most likely wouldn’t resort to such self-important designations. So, how would Mandela represent himself on LinkedIn? Perhaps as a “South African,” or maybe an “African,” or simply a “Human,” making no attempts to put himself on a pedestal, but rather including everyone through his warm and compassionate personality.

One often observes that the individuals seeking respect most avidly are those who merit it the least, as they may be deficient in self-respect and respect towards others. Genuine accomplishment and wisdom stand their ground, acknowledged by those knowledgeable, amidst a relentlessly fading pool of wisdom. In stark contrast, those devoid of authentic accomplishments frequently find the need to create their own spectacles and celebrations.

PT Barnum: The Performance Must Cease

PT Barnum is widely recognized as a swindler and a deceiver, perceived gently as a circus entertainer who amassed wealth by hoodwinking naive audiences with embellished performances. Nevertheless, his persona was multi-faceted; he was a benefactor and a distinguished Mayor of Bridgeport, acknowledged for introducing street lights and a hospital to the city. His abhorrence for the terrifying practice of slavery even made him resign from his pro-slavery party. It remains vital, however, to mention Barnum’s initial venture at the tender age of 25.

“His initial success grounded in the purchase and presentation of Joice Heth, a blind and almost wholly paralyzed enslaved woman, who he dishonestly introduced as the nurse of George Washington who was 161 years old. In spite of the ban on slavery in New York, he exploited a loophole and leased Heth for a year for $1,000, borrowing half this sum for the completion of the deal. He made her work excessively long hours, and after her demise in February 1836, possibly 80 years old at the maximum, Barnum staged a live autopsy in a saloon to back his claim about her age, charging spectators 50 cents each.”

People frequently cast others in binary terms as either virtuous or malevolent, multifaceted yet essentially well-meaning, or sinners who have sought redemption. The narratives and tropes of fiction, film, and television often distort our perception of others. Our lives encompass myriad choices, errors, and shifts, propelling us to develop and ideally mature. However, Barnum’s behavior displays a degree of moral corruption that distinguishes him starkly from the majority. This recounting disputes the widespread view of Barnum as a simple, mischievous prankster or an appealing historical figure known for his harmless theatrics. Instead, it unveils him as a character whose misdeeds were not simply deceptive but deeply unethical, making him the most astounding illusion of all.

The 1%. Not that 1%—Although..

Psychopaths are theorized to account for around 1.2% of the population, whereas individuals with sociopathic tendencies might make up between 1 and 4%. The prevalence of these statistics took me by surprise in the 3D printing industry; I had anticipated them to be significantly higher. Directly confronting a sociopath is generally ill-advised; maintaining distance is often a safer and more viable strategy. However, as a sector, we can’t afford to disregard the presence of these damaging individuals. While their influence might eventually wane, those who are deceptive and manipulative can persist, potentially causing serious harm via their accumulated wealth and power.

Addressing this problem remains a complex endeavor. One potential strategy might be to establish a kind of cordon sanitaire, a tactic designed to avoid any significant interaction with such harmful individuals. But the effectiveness of this strategy is not guaranteed. Should we take this route, or should we trust in the market to naturally rectify these excesses? The answer is unclear. But it’s a question deserving of serious consideration as we determine the best course of action to safeguard and propel our industry forward.

We Must Discard the Clowns and Showmen

Growth is often accompanied by discomfort and challenges, introducing a new set of sensations and experiences. As our industry prepares to transition into its next phase, maintaining the status quo is no longer viable. Continuing with “business as usual” risks adopting the detrimental behaviors of a few, potentially impacting everyone in the industry. This moment calls for us to be proactive – akin to putting on flea collars – to avoid being burdened with problems in the future. We are presented with a unique opportunity to distance ourselves from those elements that are not only unnecessary but also pose a threat to our collective progress. It’s essential to move away from individuals who lack ethical principles. Failing to do so might lead us down a path similar to the volatile worlds of cryptocurrency and Bitcoin, where our successes and failures become inextricably linked to these unreliable and unpredictable persons.

Creative Commons Attribution: Jon Evans, tmmb and rjp.

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


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GCode-Guru

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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