With fast industry growth of 3D print products and expansion in the 3D manufacturing sector, 3D printers are moving from makers to business owners. 3D printers are putting us back in a mindset to manufacture and make, causing a shift that reaches out to the need for more personalization and mass customization. In this updated conversation, Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard look at how this move puts 3D printing as a means to manufacture and sell parts and products, not just prototypes. The 3D manufacturing sector is accelerating more amid the COVID-19 supply chain crisis than ever before. Listen in on this episode to learn more about this shift that could help take your 3D printing products to a wider reach, manufacturing now for a bigger market that demands customized solutions and experiences.
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3D Printers Shifting to Mind-to-Market 3D Manufacturing – Updated 2020
We’ve got another update to a very popular episode that we had from the past. This is about 3D Printers Shifting Mind-To-Market 3D Manufacturing. We’re going to update this a little bit for 2020. We have some things to share with you and then we’re going to go back to that previous episode for those of you that may not have read it the first time.
Originally, we were talking about how makers were shifting into moving into manufacturing. There was this shift that was happening in the industry where you were going from making some things, finding out what is viable in the marketplace. You maybe had an Etsy store or you were selling it on your own website. Whatever it was, you were starting to do that and then moving into mass-market manufacturing of that, so more quantities even if they were still personalized. We start thinking about 3D printed shoes, Feetz, and some of the other things that we have evaluated over the course of our 580 something episodes here. We’ve talked about these things in pockets in various places.
Now, we’re looking at that as an update here. We’re looking at the viability and the growth of the 3D manufacturing side of things. The reality is it’s necessary right now. We need 3D manufacturing flexibility, sustainability, supply chain management and the controls of it. As important as some of the things that we’re talking about in that episode is we need personalization and mass customization. The ability to make these things but also make them personal.
In addition to that, distributed manufacturing. There’s a lot more 3D print manufacturing capacity that is distributed worldwide than there was. As you said with makers and individuals who had 3D printers and they were able to make things locally. Now, you’ve got a lot more manufacturing infrastructure. We’ve seen how a lot of that has applied to the manufacturing locally of valves for hospitals in need of IV drip valves, PPE aids, masks and things that people have been making here for the needs of hospitals with COVID-19. Certainly, the infrastructure is much more robust than it was.
We’re going to be talking about in some upcoming episodes about post-processing techniques, materials, textures, how we simulate them, how we create them in the computer, how we then print them out and make them viable. These things go hand-in-hand because they were some of what we were critical of at the beginning of it that was holding back that more full-scale manufacturing process. A lot of these things have been solved and they come to a place at which it makes it very viable to run a 3D manufacturing operation of any kind. I want to step back and mention a little bit more about that mass customized and personalized idea because we need to step into that further.The flexibility of #3Dmanufacturing opens up the need for personalization and #masscustomization. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
There are some amazing things that we have reviewed and talked about on the show before. We talked about printing 3D medicines that would be a special release. They were custom printed for your body so they were the right amounts and mixes of it. Talking about dialing in 3D print medicine. That’s an internal example of it, but thinking about it in terms of personalized fit, function and all of those things. We start to realize that so much of our world is dominated by being designed for a 6-foot male. We know that because we designed office chairs for so long and the major innovation that we came up with was, “Let’s make them a little bit more adjustable. Let’s make the arms move up so you can scooch a little closer if you’re shorter like me.”
That’s how we came about to looking from it from a design perspective. All of a sudden, the market went, “Thank goodness there’s stuff for us.” There is such a need for that in this broader product-based and even industrial product-base. We’re looking for customized solutions for everything that we do. Being able to do that at the end of the process or where most of the parts for your product might be manufactured, but then you’re adding 3D components at the end. Those are viable and exciting changes to the whole manufacturing cycle.
Talking about mass customization, we’ve seen that with footwear. I remember with a company like Wiivv, they’re manufacturing certain parts of their shoes, sandals, orthotics, whatever that are pre-manufactured and the end of process customization. I do see that increasing. People are not going out to the big box retail stores as much as they were to buy things. Even when they do, you get one choice or maybe two. There are not a lot of colors and size accommodation.
We’re starting to get into this world where we expect things to digital apps and all kinds of things. We expect a personalized experience. Consumers are starting to get into businesses for that matter if you’re doing business-to-business sales. We’re starting to get dissatisfied with companies and products that don’t understand us and don’t get us. That’s paved the way for this mind-to-market shifts that we’ve been talking about. It’s already shifting consumer behavior in expecting this. When it doesn’t happen, there’s a disappointment level. That’s where 3D printing is brilliant and flexible. It gives us so much opportunity but now, the design tools are keeping up with it. How we deliver to people, the ability to provide customized shopping carts and experiences. Those are happening as well.
Thank goodness for companies like Wiivv and Feetz, and those people who have harped in paving the way for all of that. We can take measurements on an app on our phone and then create a customized response that gets made, delivered to us and tracked for us so we can see our personalized product being made. All of those things have shifted that mind-to-market and making the 3D manufacturing on a personalized and customized basis. It’s supplementing where the maker starts testing it. We move into the manufacturers who can start making it and delivering these personalized 3D print solutions to people.
It’s exciting. I’m pleased to see where it’s going. The future is as bright for 3D printing as I hoped it was when we started this show.
It also leads to something we talked about in the series, the sustainability of things. These types of delivery systems of being able to manufacture close to the consumer. That’s going to be so amazing or in your facility if it’s a business-to-business solution. Being able to do that and lower the transportation costs, material usage and all of those things make for a sustainable business opportunity in the future.
It’s time to go back to that episode. You can get a lot of value out of it. It will be interesting to think about what we said then and the context of now. A lot of it still applies, but there are some new opportunities here. Let’s go back to 3D Printer Shifting Mind-To-Market 3D Manufacturing.
3D Printers Shifting to Mind-to-Market 3D Manufacturing – originally aired on October 11, 2016
I like the subject because it deals with paradigm shifts. We were debating this and so we thought we’d bring this on. The idea is there’s been this tug of war between makers and manufacturers, and who’s going to make the most of 3D printing and who owned tipping it and making it happen and getting awareness for it. My perspective and what I’m a proponent for is the idea that makers may have pushed the reality of 3D printing into saying, “This doesn’t just belong in prototyping anymore. This belongs in end product making.” We now have to push it out of the maker’s hands and back into the reality of market manufacturing. Using 3D printing to make real products. It has to go back and forth. There needs to be this collaboration between what we’ve learned rather than treating it like the maker’s world is its own little isolated world and the manufacturer’s world is its own little isolated entity. They’re completely intertwined and dependent on each other, I would think.
If we don’t learn smartly on the manufacturing side from what makers can do, we won’t be incorporating enough customization or cool products that are consumer viable. We learn this so often. You make stuff that nobody wants to buy because you didn’t understand what the world wanted. Makers are closer to that because they’re consumers that are making. That’s the reality of how close they are.
That gets tricky because the reality is everyone is a consumer in some way, whether they’re a minor consumer and they buy most of the things for their household. They’re a major consumer or a minor consumer. We’re all consumers. All too often, people don’t think about markets on a large scale and the realities of consumers in general, and what’s going to make something successful and what’s not. It’s interesting because makers tend to make things that are more short-run or even one-off. You don’t need to appeal to a big market. You’re not going to sell a whole heck of a lot of them either that way. I think 3D printing is uniquely suited to make a quantity of one over and over again in different ways.
It’s a great bridge to two worlds. That’s what we’ve seen from it from the beginning. The opportunity is there for you to do whatever can pay the bills and make the money by manufacturing them in multiples. You’ll also be able to have this wonderful customizable option and have those things built into the system in which you can do both at the same time. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I think it’s true that makers in the United States, just speaking in particular about the United States, but it’s probably true of many modern industrialized countries, not what are considered to be the major world factories at this point like China and other Asian countries. In the United States, makers have paved the way for manufacturing to be relevant again in areas where manufacturing had completely died in this country.
You’re able to make it localized again. You’ve given the demand to products and materials that weren’t there before and are back again. The idea that it’s worth waiting for something that’s special, that in and of itself, that mindset shift has been critically important. Not everything has to be delivered in an hour by a drone. It could be three days and it’s still personalized.
I think that mindsets and paradigms are changing. There has been this culture ever since Federal Express became real. It became something that even before the internet existed, Federal Express was already there. All of a sudden, when you have an important document or have some package overnight, not only it became possible but then it became demanded or expected. If you want it, you want it now. Why do you have to wait? There’s overnight shipping. You can do that now. This became this expectation that you’ve got to have it now. In a lot of ways, throughout the ‘90s and even starting before the ‘90s but especially in the ‘90s, these big-box chains were opening as many stores as they could possibly open each year. A huge part of their sales growth had to do with how many stores they could open. What other regions of the United States had they not saturated yet that they could put more stores? As you shift into the 2000s, they do get saturated. There’s no more place to expand. Their entire business model of growth has to change.
In this case, they try to acquire their competitors. It’s still happening. That’s the interesting dichotomy because there have been all these reports about how Amazon has now proliferated many warehouses in many areas that they’re essentially within two days of almost every consumer in this country. That proliferation wasn’t happening unless you were Walmart before that. You want to look at what’s going on. That’s happening on one hand, but at the same time, as consumers, thanks to makers and thanks to Etsy and other places like that, we are shown that’s viable and we are interested in the idea of having something special that isn’t just available sitting on a warehouse shelf somewhere.
It’s been now a couple of decades at least American consumers experiencing big box retail, and the fact that they don’t have exactly what they want may be necessarily. It’s not in the exact color they want or some other feature, but it’s what’s there. It’s what’s available and so they buy it, sometimes reluctantly, if it’s not exactly what they want. What’s happening now is a response to what big-box retail has conditioned the mass American consumer to, that everything you buy there is vanilla. Maybe vanilla and chocolate, but that’s about it. You certainly don’t get 31 flavors of everything. That’s maybe too old a reference.
I also think that there’s an interesting thing that we’re not talking about it. The fact that there’s a larger portion of makers that are women. Whereas in the manufacturing world, I read the report that 85% of engineering and designers in that consumer product world are men, yet consumers are 85% women.
We’ve also recognized that’s been a problem with so many products. Bringing a product to mass market retail is a very risky proposition because it takes a huge amount of dollars, it takes millions of dollars to develop, manufacture and distribute that product. Not just for the manufacturer but for the retailer. Retailers like Target or Staples or something like that commits to putting one single SKU at retail. It means that it’s going to take 5,000 to 6,000, depending on what it is, maybe as many as 10,000 pieces if it’s a small product. They’re going to carry a few more of them per store just to fill that pipeline. That’s millions of dollars committed. It’s a big bet you have to make.
In that process though, when you have someone who’s in control who doesn’t have a core understanding. In the case of what we’re talking about, it’s not only highly imbalanced in terms of men versus women, but it’s imbalanced of people who are even the country in which they’re selling into. We have a large portion of Asian engineering and design happening for an American market that they don’t understand, and then there’s a gender difference on top of that. When you have those things to compound, it’s where in a sense makers are saying, “A lot of us makers are women.” In that maker process, we’ve proven that there is more traction to better quality, better personalized, better connection to what women want to buy. It makes for a better and more viable product long-term. It’s not a risky proposition.
There are a lot of issues with what makes it risky at mass-market retail. Part of it is the financial commitment that I was talking about. The other big risk is if you don’t put something out there that 85% of the shoppers in the store want to buy, 15% of the shoppers are not enough for a product to make it. You’ve got to appeal to more people. That’s hard to do because everyone doesn’t want to just buy vanilla. I agree that makers and the Etsy community and all this have been a response to that. Certainly, there are a lot of women makers. I don’t know if they’ve outnumbered men historically, but certainly, more of the retail supply chain for makers has probably been the JOANN Fabrics of the world, the Michaels Arts and Crafts. More women are shopping for those stores than men. The arrival of desktop 3D printing especially has brought a lot more men into the maker community. There always have been men. The urban workshops of the world and the people in carpentry and some of these harder materials. There have always been more men than women in making in that sense.
If we’re going to go a little bit sexist here, we are more than willing to go there because we have all these discussions all the time. It’s important to call out that elephant in the room. That’s the reality of it. That’s the way it. It’s a shame that there aren’t more women engineers and more women designers. When I was in industrial design school in college, we had probably 50 to 60 people in my class, in my department of industrial design and a handful of women. I want to say 5 or 6.
How many of those women are still practicing? Very few, two maybe. What does that say about that? What I wanted to point out here, in that sexist view of that, is that’s maybe why 3D printing is having a hard time getting traction into the consumer product market because it’s too much of a male perspective driving it. There’s nothing worse to me than looking at the product catalog of the directories of files. The files directories, the repositories like Thingiverse, Pinshape, all of them. There isn’t one out there that has enough of a tipped value in men versus women in terms of the product offering, but it’s not shoppable. That’s the point to understand.
That’s a problem across internet retail in general. They’re not very shoppable. It’s because of the search engine base on how people have to enter keywords in order to find something. What sites do you know that is shoppable? Do you even think Pinterest, which is decidedly a much more female traffic site? Is that even shoppable?
I think it’s failed to be shoppable but not because women aren’t sharing the designs there and they’re not excited about them and they aren’t. They’re not shoppable because by the time they hit Pinterest, they’re already out of the store. They’re already gone. There’s no place to transact and buy them. It’s the number one complaint I hear from most women who are on Pinterest. It’s a wishlist site of something you want but you can’t find it anymore. You can no longer have. How frustrating is that?
It has a backlash against those companies that try to sell on there, because by the time they get in there and they get the traction you need and the viralness necessary to get enough attention, it’s gone. That’s where it would never happen in the 3D printed world because it’s never gone. That’s where it could work out well but no one’s trying that to take advantage of it and they should. That’s a part that’s missing.
It’s an experience like you walk into a store and you’re presented with whether it’s a seasonal offering of things or somehow relevant to something happening in your community or society or whatever. It’s a tagging, it’s a keyword, it’s a whole thing like that. The thing is none of those sites have gotten enough value. They aren’t at the level at which an Amazon is for instance. Amazon’s algorithm serves up to me exactly what I want to see because I’ve been shopping there since 1997. They know me.
They’ve gone to school on you and data mined you. Their algorithms have figured out things that you might have a tendency to want.
Not just that. They’re paying attention to my gift list and my wish list and all these things. They know it’s my dad’s birthday. They know these things are coming up. Typically at this time of the year, I buy something for him. They know that and they’re serving these things up to me smartly. They understand that mindset of how I shop and how women shop and how shopping is transacted in general. A file site is organized in this directory category style. It’s an organizational structure. That’s what these repositories are doing. It may have worked just fine when you are providing engineering files to someone who needed a part of a component or these things. It doesn’t work in a consumer shopping world.
To be fair, Amazon is in a unique position to be able to do that because of their size, because of two decades almost of history here in terms of shopping, studying, and cooking what you as a consumer and every other individual consumer does. Every site cannot dial it in the way that Amazon does.Being able to provide customized solutions through #3Dprinting shows viable and exciting changes to the whole manufacturing cycle. @hp @zbyhp Click To Tweet
It’s a money issue. You’re a startup. You’re in this certain stage and you’re in this infancy setup of the 3D printing file repository world. I think it’s the mind-to-market strategy that you have to change your mind about who your audience is. Who your audience now is not the audience you need to be successful and make money. That’s the shift that I wanted to think about. Makers don’t necessarily make enough profits. This is how I got my job as a columnist for Inc. I did a lecture on makers making profits. How do you become one of those makers?
It was more about how makers are not making profits and what they’re doing wrong than it was examples of makers doing it right. It’s because the mind-shift is different. It’s a market-based mindset. Putting head into, “How does that market shop? What do they want? Why are they there? What do they not care about?” Do you know what the market doesn’t care about? That it’s 3D printed. They don’t care about that part. The value proposition has to be something other than how it’s made because you don’t have consumer products highlighting, “I’m injection molded.” “We are rotationally molded. Isn’t that cool?” Consumers don’t care. “Why are we highlighting 3D printing?” It’s, “What is the real value proposition and as a consumer, why should I care about your product versus the thousands of others that I get bombarded with?”
It’s the perfect gift for my dad’s birthday. That’s how the mindset works. When we can start to shift that and bring in that market and manufacturing mindset that has worked for a while and bring that into the abilities that the maker world has pointed us to, the opportunities of that, that’s the real power of the future of on-demand retail 3D printing.
We’re seeing some pieces of the puzzle here and there being done right. It gives me great excitement and also anticipation and hope. I’m not one to hope much at all. I see it as sifting out of reality to the companies that are doing something that’s powerful and working and them gaining focus. Them coming to the surface as being the ones we should be looking too. Companies that get it, that understand the realities of the situation and are playing to it and making it happen, we’re seeing more of it. We’re seeing other companies developing technology that is helping to enhance that shopping experience. Make that a reality. Make it seamless because that’s what it needs to make it work.
We hope that this episode and our debate about that is something that you appreciate. We always love to hear from you and hear your thoughts on it. Please send us a message on 3DStartPoint.com, either send on Info@3DStartPoint.com email or comment in the comment field of this blog post. You can reach us on social media, @3DStartPoint. There are many ways to reach us. If you have something to talk about, you have no excuse. Come on, come talk to us. Thanks for reading, this has been Tom and Tracy on the WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
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