Canadian Commercial 3D Printing is at ‘Slope of Enlightenment’: Gartner Group

Article by Rod Mackay updated March 17, 2014

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Gartner Group Hype Cycle

Commercial 3D Printing is at ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ on the Gartner Group Hype Cycle

At Javelin, we field inquiries about 3D printing from all across Canada and all walks of life – from the big industrial user to the DIY guy. So I could really relate to this recent article at Engineering.com about the disparate worlds of 3D printing. There are two types of people who can use 3D printers. (Fortunately there are products for both of them).

Consumers: at Top of the Hype Cycle

The Engineering.com article correctly identify that for consumers 3D printing is at the peak of ‘hype’ as defined by the Gartner Group’s Hypecycle: “inflated expectations which lead to the trough of disillusionment.” In practice I see this every day – unrealistic expectations about the capabilities of 3D printers, such as people wanting to print tires for their car, or make cheap trinkets they could buy at the dollar store.

For consumers who want to invent and make things in their garage or basement there are many inexpensive “hobby” 3D printers on the market like the MakerBot.  These are terrific tools for making parts if you have the time and energy to experiment and tinker.

Commercial Buyers: at the Slope of Enlightenment

Industrial uses of 3D printing have had time to mature quite a bit, reaching what Gartner calls “the slope of enlightenment.” Commercial applications of 3D printing are ramping up that slope quickly these days.  Javelin’s customers across Canada are making prototypes for form, fit and functional testing, models for sales and marketing applications, tooling for the shop floor and even end use parts.

The PLM TV News video in the Engineering.com article includes a great example of this in air craft manufacturer Airbus. Incidentally, this excellent video also includes Bruce Bradshaw and Jonathan Cobb of Stratasys discussing the industrial uses of 3D printing and the development of new materials.

At Javelin we specialize in the commercial applications of 3D printing with Stratasys products that are robust and produce accurate and repeatable results.  Customers like Prothane in Milton, Ontario use an Objet 3D printer to make prototype parts, blanks for molds and they even directly 3D print molds that are used to make end use parts.

I hate to media bash (I used to work in media, and I know a lot of good work gets done there) – but a lot of confusion comes from the media coverage of 3D printing which sometime suggests that the features of each type of printer is available to the other – which they are not.

Still, wrong press is better than no press – and the public’s knowledge of the astonishing possibilities of 3D printing is getting more refined all the time. And that’s a good thing.

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Rod Mackay

Rod has been using 3D CAD software for over 25 years and has trained thousands of designers to use their CAD systems more effectively. Rod is the Javelin Webmaster and is based in Ottawa, ON., Canada.