Eleven minutes to 3D printing. It only took eleven minutes for a Kickstarter project promising to build the world’s first consumer-focused 3D printer to reach its $50,000 goal. In just one day, the project has amassed nearly $600,000 – and with 29 days to go, there’s no doubt it will go beyond that.
3D printing is a proven technology – it works, and companies are already using it as a faster and cheaper way to build prototypes. But it has yet to hit the mainstream, relegated only to enthusiasts who have the money and time to spare on experimental technology.
But the Micro represents what this technology could become – a realistic replacement for the construction of physical goods in the home.
The Kickstarter campaign is certainly hitting on what consumers might want – an “incredibly intuitive, easy to own and seamless by design” model.
It’s important to highlight this. A technology that is so intrinsically complicated such as 3D printing is only going to survive in the mainstream home if the instructions are simple to use – something the team behind the Micro say they’ve cracked. Even the software is said to be extremely simple. It’s the same bedrock on which Apple has built its popularity – simple will always trump a product that has more features but is complicated to use.
The Micro will survive and be popular, at least among its backers – that much is certain. But what this also represents is the massive opportunities in the 3D printing space for entrepreneurs and businesses.
A new technology is only as good as its ecosystem. iTunes couldn’t be popular without music, and Google Glass won’t survive without apps. Nor will a 3D printing thrive if an ecosystem doesn’t develop around it.
That ecosystem is in blueprints. Imagine a scenario in which users don’t have to wait to import a new iPhone case – they simply pay $30 for the blueprints, and create the model in their own home. This is what the future of manufacturing looks like – a model which slowly transfers its way into the home, for small-scale projects at least, and is increasingly dependent on data.
Of course, this all depends on whether or not 3D printing takes off as a consumer technology. But $500,000 in eleven minutes is a good start.