Not knowing if there will be enough topics to talk about and interesting guests to interview is every podcaster’s worry during their early stages. Tom and Tracy Hazzard asked the same questions in April 2015 and got their answer 500 episodes later. As designers and developers, making 3D print predictions is both exciting and frustrating since a lot of companies have come and gone, but there are new disruptors that even they never saw coming. Listen to their stories of how they look for hidden gems and how after 500 episodes they are still passionate and excited for the progress being made in the 3D print industry.
500th Podcast Episode: 3D Print Predictions & Lessons Learned
This is episode 500. I never thought we’d get to 500. In a way, it doesn’t even feel like 500. When you start a podcast like this, you don’t know how far you’re going to go or where this journey is going to take you. It was middle of April, it was the day after tax day, April of 2015 when we published episode one, and we actually published two and three on the same day. That’s how we did it when we launched. We started bringing this podcast to the world, on iTunes and Stitcher and all those other places and a lot has happened. That’s more than two and a half years, 500 episodes later, it’s been a quite a ride. It’s evolved a little bit over that time and I thought we could talk a little bit about where we started, where we’re at and maybe where things are going in this industry today.
C: When you start a podcast, you don’t know how far you’re going or where the journey will take you.
Part of the reason that we are at 500 episodes is because we did so many in the beginning. We used to do five days a week. We try to do six a month. That’s our goal. We try to do a couple of extra bonus episodes in there but do four main once a month. Throwing a product review now and again or a topic that we think is timely. When you prepare to do a podcast like we did, we thought about is there going to enough to talk about? We wondered that, “Are we going to run out of things to talk about?” and we clearly didn’t. “Are you going to have enough cool people to interview?” It’s not that we don’t have cool people to interview, it’s actually that people are not as easy to get on the show as it used to be. It used to be really easy to get them on the show. Now, just to get them scheduled, it’s not that they don’t want to be, they think it’s great but they just don’t take the time. I think that’s really shortsighted in this industry because there’s not a lot of really great new sources or great ways for you to promote yourself within the marketplace itself that isn’t an advertising push, that doesn’t cost you money at the end of the day or isn’t a press release regurgitation.
There’s a lot of that in the different distribution channels that exist in 3D printing. There is a lot of aggregating of press releases. We definitely are not that and we’ve intentionally tried not to be that. In fact, when people send us press releases, they don’t even get to our inbox anymore. Our assistants screen those out. Unless it’s a particular area of interest or something we were already researching or planning to do an episode on, then we’ll mention it in an episode. But we’re not a place to just get the word out about your latest press release. I’m proud about that especially coming from the media. I always wanted us to have an original viewpoint and I feel that we have stuck to that.
If you’ve been listening to us for a long time, you know we are designers. We are product designers and developers and design and engineering is a particular area of interest for us, more so than the really nittty-gritty tech advances of little features and whether it’s hardware or software or whatever. We certainly respect the hardware. We’re excited about developments in it and we do review printers and we’ve done a lot of software reviews and all that. That’s useful and we’ve enjoyed doing that, but we’re not in it for the sake of a tech. That’s really what’s kept us going, was that it didn’t dive into that. It didn’t head into that complete tech area, which to me it’s not timeless. It gets stuck in like, “That was good news this week and not next week.”
What I’m really most proud of is that people find our podcast. We were just looking at the stats just to check them out. We looked at the last 50 downloads and we’ve got episode number 2, episode number 30, the Marble episode, which was in the first 200. We have episodes that are early episodes that are still being listened to today. I’m proud of that.
I’m happy that the episodes have that much longevity and the older ones do get listened to. When people find this podcast, they are going back and searching through all the episodes. Obviously, those earliest episodes, the first 200 of them are not even on iTunes anymore because iTunes only shows you the latest 300 episodes. That’s one of the things that I want to address now. I want to make sure that we actually put them out on iTunes. I think it’s more convenient for our podfasters. For our podfasters who are binge-listening to the episodes and everything, I’m thinking that we put out an archive. We can do that. We are going to put our first 200 episodes into archive and maybe we’ll put the second 200 in as another set and then just keep the last 100 and we’ll keep going like that and then when you hit 300, we’ll archive at 200. I think that’s more useful because a lot of people just like to run through the list and go, “I want to listen to this one, this one, this one, this one.”
Right now, those earliest episodes, the only way you can listen to them is go into 3DStartPoint.com. We appreciate that you’re doing that. On the podcast page, there’s a player that you have to go through several pages of episodes. You can get to the first earliest episodes and start listening to them or within the blog post for the episodes, there’s a track player for every one where you can also do it. We can create a couple of additional feeds and publish those additional feeds on iTunes and Stitcher and all those places. It will have to have a slight variation on the name like the WTFFF Volume 1, Volume 2 or something like that. We’ll figure that out. As soon as that is done, we’ll announce that to you in case any of you are interested in that.
Those are the things you’re faced with because the reality of all of the podcast channels is the maximum number of episodes they’ll let you display is 300 in one feed. For most people it’s not a problem. What I really want to do is thank our listeners, because I could not have kept talking about 3D printing if it wasn’t for you guys. You keep us energized. You throw us cool ideas. You ask us great questions. You keep us going. You keep us on track to find new things for you. When I’m out there, I’m like, “Our listeners need this.” It’s always in my mind that you’re there. I really wish we heard from a lot more people. It would be really cool if we had a venue by which we could hear from more people at once. I wish it was really live. I still appreciate those who do reach out and do keep us going. Even when we took our hiatus earlier this year, I appreciate that they were like, “Where are you?” You kept us coming back. You kicked us in the butt and kept us accountable and certainly, we wanted to come back and we did.
Let’s talk about what it was like in 2015. We had plans for what the purpose was of this. The top level goal was for us to be able to help all of you jump the learning curve and move the industry along faster. We felt it wasn’t moving fast enough. It wasn’t moving fast enough so that we could build a business that we wanted to build. We thought if we can’t build a business that we want to build and we’re highly skilled at this, then how hard is it for other people who are just starting out and for those who want to do something but don’t have all the capabilities or all the skills or all the tools or are in the middle of nowhere or in another country, we’ve just discovered this, in places like Brazil and Nigeria who don’t have as rich a network as we do. How can we bring that out and help everyone move the industry and accelerate it faster? That was the goal. The reality is a lot has changed in two and a half years in this industry. Certainly there are many things that have not changed but a lot has changed. A lot of the companies that we have interviewed don’t exist anymore. Look what happened to Pinshape.
We had interviews with the executive leadership of that company and they struggled. Their funding sources dried up and they ended up getting bought out by Formlabs. Maybe the site still exists in some way, shape or form but it’s not what it used to be. It’s not the community that it was supposed to be or they had planned for. I did catch up with Lucas Matheson this year and he is at Shopify doing some great eCommerce things over there, which is very exciting.
There are companies that have come and gone. To me what’s more exciting is, and we’ve seen this in recent interviews we’ve had on the show and some new ones coming up, that there are new companies on the scene that didn’t exist when we first started this podcast. We could never have predicted that those companies would exist. We’ve been interviewing some great designers lately. We just interviewed Danit, the fashion designer, and that was fun seeing what she is doing with 3D printing. I really am enjoying especially some of the newer people and companies we’re interviewing and some of the things that are happening. It’s not just an investigation trying to find out every little thing we can that’s going on in the industry, but it’s really looking for those hidden gems.
We talked about how we’re not the place that is your destination for the press release of everything that’s going on in the industry. There are plenty of other places you can get that. We’re trying to find really those interesting stories and valuable stories for you not only of companies doing something unique. Remember Collider and what they are doing with 3D printing? It’s completely different. We will have an episode on Inside 3D Printing San Diego. Tracy will be speaking on a panel on the first day and will give a talk on disrupting retail on the second day.
I’m on a panel with Lucy Beard of Feetz who we also really like and a woman named Melanie from Formalloy who is doing some cool things. I’ve invited her to come on the podcast. She probably will come on the first month of the year. They were doing some cool things in metal finishing and metal mixing of materials. That panel is sponsored by Women in 3D Printing, Nora from Sculpteo, Barbara from Cyant. I’ll be there as well and we’ve done interviews with both of them this year. We do those very rarely just because they are local and we are not the ones who travel to trade shows. There are people out there who do that. There are other trade publications that do that. We’re not a trade publication. We don’t even pretend to be that. That’s not what we’re about.
We still are about the learning curve and education and trying to help the industry. We have a great upcoming episode with someone who is an expert who is a recruiter in the 3D printing space. This is something that we haven’t been able to do before because when we started this podcast, there were no human resources, companies, recruiters that were working full-time in finding people to hire for additive manufacturing industry. In the last two and a half years, times have changed and now there is someone who has now about at least a year and a half experience doing that full-time. There are a lot of important things that we can learn from her and share with you that will hopefully help you especially if you’re either an educator, a student or looking to start a second career and you want to do it in additive. What should you do?
Those types of valuable things, we want to continue to bring to you and we still are doing reviews. I have a printer I have been working with for about two months. The reviews are taking too long, we recognize that. We are really nitpicky about how we review these printers. We don’t want to just run a couple of test prints and go, “It came out of the box. It’s cool. Here’s a video.” We want you to know that we are putting these printers through their paces. We’re trying all kinds of products, all different types of models on them. We’re trying to stress them. We’re trying to see what their capability range is. If you’re going to buy one and you’re going invest in one, we’re treating that dollar investment like our own. Is this worth us buying? You don’t all get the opportunity to test them out before you buy them. We want to be really clear about how we’re doing that and what we’re doing and that’s why Tom spends so much time on that.
There are some printers that I don’t have to spend as much time with because there’s not that much to them maybe or they’re not as complex. When we did the minis, it was a little easier because they are single extrusion machines and there is not as much that you can do in terms of the software or the settings and all that. A lot of it is limited and of course the build line is limited. This next printer, and I’ll give you a little tease for it coming up shortly within the next several episodes, will be my review of the CEL RoboxDual 3D Printer. I can’t go too much into it now because I’ll ruin that episode. This is something completely different and I’m incredibly impressed. You’re going to want to listen to that episode. I really work with these things. I get into them and explore not only the hardware but the software and I try printing new things. From a real world user perspective, I’m able to give you my opinion on it.
If there’s anything looking back at the two and a half years and the 500 episodes that I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed that this isn’t more of a full-time job for us. It’s a sign that the industry hasn’t accelerated enough. It’s not like we don’t have projects for clients, we do. We have some great 3D print projects. We use 3D printing in our prototyping and we’ve been doing that for a decade. It’s not like that’s new in our process. It’s been frustrating in terms of the fact that it’s not just easier for projects to come and that means that we could have a bigger staff here of 3D print production help and help for the podcast and help to do all of these so that we can really make that a full-time job, that this isn’t just a side up part of our business. It still is two and a half years later. I think by now I had expected as we headed into especially 2018, that was my year that I expected we would be doing more of a 50-50 product design and 3D printing. I’d say, we’re still really at a 90-10, 90% product design and 10% 3D printing.
I envisioned originally we would be doing more 3D printing in our day job. then it would subsidize the podcast in a way because we have not, as you noticed, taken a lot of advertisers over time over the 500 episodes. We can. We have lots of downloads because you guys are great listeners and all of that. We can and we may have to just to keep it going but we’re really picky about them too. That’s another thing. We don’t want to advertise something that we don’t believe in. It’s expensive to run a podcast and it’s time-consuming. I had hoped that it would just be such a part of our day job that it would be so much easier to fit it in.
Let’s talk about that. It’s not that the 3D print economy and industry isn’t continuing to grow, it is. You will actually hear some more about that when do have that upcoming episode with the recruiter. You’ll get from a job perspective how the industry is growing. One of the things that we learned is that the industry is still growing more on the machine side and in the commercial side than it is on the consumer market side, on the design, the ‘what to 3D print.’ It’s still my opinion, it is what is holding back this marketplace. People don’t have a vision for what to make. The interesting thing is I now am more confident, I always felt this way from an educated guess perspective or an anecdotal evidence perspective. I’ve always believed that the market will shift. Now, I think there’s more evidence from this upcoming interview that we have that it will shift but it hasn’t tipped yet.
You still have too many companies and too much capital being invested in material development and machines and systems and maybe even post processing of additive manufacturing parts. There is not a big effort being put into what products are you going to create for consumers to buy and how are they going to be distributed. Is brick and mortar retail going to play a role in that or is it all going to be dot-com? There are so many unknowns and you combine that with a retail industry that is still stuck in yesterday. We recently saw in the news, especially after Black Friday, when they talked about the sales they got that day. When they talked about the number of retail store locations that have closed in the United States just this year in 2017, it was something like 6,700 retail store locations have closed because there’s not enough business. That whole industry is trying to figure out a course. Everybody is chasing Amazon and I understand that. The crazy part about is that eCommerce is not profitable. They’re chasing something that’s not even profitable.
I was messaging back and forth with our good friend, John, who is an expert in eCommerce in Amazon specifically. He is a former Amazon employee. He is an expert in it and he travels all over the world lecturing about the trends and the future of the eCommerce. There’s no profitability going on in eCommerce right now. It’s not a profitable venture. They are still following that model of they took in all this VC and they’re making money off of memberships and all of these other things that they are doing. The actual products sold, especially on a Black Friday, no one makes enough money on. It’s not a profit center. It’s not a profitable venture and it’s definitely not even as profitable, which isn’t very profitable either retail. As we know, margins are very tight and they’ve been shrinking and shrinking and shrinking. They are also shrinking on the eCommerce side which is just crazy to think about. You’re shifting to something that’s not profitable unless you’re going direct yourself.
The distribution model for eCommerce where you are a manufacturer and you’re selling a product to a distributor and the distributor is then maybe putting that in a dot-com like a Target or a Walmart or even Amazon, that unless you’re a company that is distributing your own product that you’re manufacturing, you’re not making enough money. If you look at the model of Shopify shops, the ones who have Shopify shops, the products that they sell over that are of course the most profitable because there’s no more of those all those multi-levels of middle men in the process; taking a cut of the whole thing. The average margins are below 10% at all the different levels right now of eCommerce. When you consolidate that, you can do it yourself, you might be able to make 30% which is what the goal should be and where your minimum be at retail. To us, if you’re a retailer, you ought to be making 70%. That’s their goal and of course that’s gross, not net and they’ll net very low because this is what’s happening, the cost of the overhead structures is so high.
In Amazon’s model, it is high because they have to keep expending distributions centers and infrastructure growth is still so high for them. In a direct print, on demand 3D print world, that’s what I’m trying to get to here, is that those upfront costs are high in terms of design and development but the risk is low, the margins continue to be high because there’s no need for that system. There’s no need to have anything but a very large server to host files and deliver them. It’s a different model of investment and shifting. When you are in a zero inventory or you’re in on demand, last mile delivery is what I’m going to call it, and Amazon is totally poised to do that, they’re very focused on that. That’s why they bought Whole Foods. When you look at that whole model, that is where the world shifts and now profit comes. If they don’t shift to that point, if there are no designers to support that, if there’s no great products, it will not work in a ‘me too’ world. It won’t matter if you can make it on demand and deliver it in the last mile if you don’t have products that people want to buy.
The company is different because you have a lot of profit centers. You have a whole different set of profit centers. AWS systems are way more profitable than anything else. You have different profit centers that are there. The eCommerce sales themselves are not profitable and we know that in Black Friday because they’re like giveaways. They’re trying to get you in the door.
The other trend we know that’s been happening with Amazon in particular is Amazon, as a company, has been moving more and more to direct buying product and selling it themselves rather than just distributing other people’s products they are selling in Amazon. Certainly, there’s still a tremendous amount of that happening and it will always be there to a degree. The number of products that Amazon is either developing themselves and selling or are buying direct from factories and selling and cutting out any kind of middlemen is increased tremendously. It’s because they need to make more money, make more profits because it’s not profitable.
Here’s the problem with that. You start cutting out some of these early innovators because you’re taking their products and now you’re going direct on them, and I’m not going to call them innovators because that’s probably not the right word but the ones who are finding products and happen to find a good niche in there whether it’s through arbitrage, it’s buying something that somebody already made and you’re just restyling it under usually different brands. Until that data exists, Amazon doesn’t know that it’s a good product. If those people stop doing it because it’s not profitable for them anymore, then Amazon has no data to pull to decide what to make next. That’s what they usually do. They to go to school on other people that have invested the time and money to prove there’s a market for a certain product or a certain category of product and then Amazon decides, “That’s really profitable. I want that margin.” They go be a category killer and do it themselves. Of course, they have the ability to use their own system. Unfortunately for the other sellers, your customer, if you think of Amazon that way, becomes your competitor.
We know that happens. It happens in retail. Walmart has been doing it for decades. This is the way it works. The problem is that if you don’t leave profit in there for the innovators, for the people who are coming in and finding new things for you, you will not have the data you need to continue to move that forward and you will lose market share because all of the sudden you have no brand value of something exciting and interesting. That disruption has to come from someplace else. I firmly believe that the only place we will be able to make margin and afford it is in 3D printing, is in on-demand manufacturing and more localized manufacturing and manufacturing as close to the end consumer who’s buying it as possible, regionally doing it around the country type of thing. This is a premise we set when we started this podcast. Are we going to be able to prove that and then be there to help the designers of the world, to be there to be the experts that people want to come to, because we can design. That hasn’t happened. That’s the part that hasn’t happened.
Retail is being dragged kicking and screaming into the future. They are not embracing it. These retailers who are closing stores left and right just to correct their balance sheets for the amount of sales they have are stuck in the past. It is not the nature of a corporation, honestly, especially a well-established one that has been around for a long time, to innovate, to think outside of the box. They have bureaucratic systems built around what they did in the past and what they’ve known how to do. What they don’t know how to do in the future, the unknown, they avoid like the plague. That’s where you, the listeners, come in. Keep building these cool companies. That’s what I love when we get messages from you that says, “I’ve been tossing around ideas and listening to the podcast and I’ve come up with five of them. I’m trying to vet them.” Thank you for listening to the market proof episode which I push all the time because I do want you to prove your ideas first.
This is maybe the lesson of 500 episodes. If we had just dove in and started a design service company that was only 3D printing. We had a plan for it. We did, we wrote it out. We hired 30 designers and production staff and we bought all these machines to run test models and then had a plan for expanding out into our own early production facility. Then when the products are just tipping over a thousand pieces, we would have it made overseas with our team that we already have over there. We had a whole process that would flow through that and an idea and we would have to build an eCommerce shop and all of this was a whole part of it. I think this is what Pinshape wanted to be at the beginning and then just weren’t. They wanted to be this amazingly curated shopping site that amazing designers put their stuff up on. We just wanted to control the design process and control the designs that went into it but it’s the same idea, a big catalogue.
We have this grand plan for it. It was $500,000 worth of labor just the first year alone and that was a lot of employees. I was hesitant because I was like, “What if we can’t keep them busy working? What if there’s not enough business?” That weighed on me and we said, “Then we need to do what we counsel all of our clients to do,” which is test the market. Is it time? Test the topic. Keep going out there and pushing that and figure out what that is. That’s one of the main reasons why we started the podcast. To see if there was market. To see who would react, who would come, who would be drawn into the information. What we found is it was all of you who are seeking a community, who are seeking training, who are seeking information, who need this bigger, broader network. It was not those seeking, “I need a designer or I need a manufacturer or I need a printer.” It wasn’t people like that and so there wasn’t a market yet.
500 episodes later, there are still high indications that that’s the best venue but the money is not being spent there. The focus is not there. I’m really excited that we are going to be bringing Jay Samit on the show. He is going to come on and he disrupts everything. He is an expert in VR/AR, all kinds of disruptive technologies. He has a TEDx Talk about how many jobs are going to disappear in the next three years from this year, by 2020, the jobs that are going to disappear. It’s astounding. I guarantee you know at least a dozen people in your network, like first degree of separation, who are going to be out of work because of the technology changes that are happening.
I think we are sitting on the cusp of right when that disruption is going to happen. It has to happen. We talked about one of the biggest problems with what we want to do in this industry, utilizing 3D printing and taking advantage of the real value and wonderful things, the opportunities that it presents, really for us, it’s more at the consumer level. We want to make products that consumers want to have, desire to have, really are excited to be buying that are 3D printed on demand. The entire existing distribution network and retail system is not built around that and it is not going to change until it is on the brink of death. Big, big changes are probably going to have to die, a couple of them, before the last few that are left actually do realize they have to change in order to make it work. At the same time, material development and post processing development also has to change. Because just because a 3D printer prints something in metal which is wonderful, there’s so many more printers printing in metal and we’ve been using some of them with some of the products we’ve been developing. You print it in metal, that’s great, but you can’t distribute a metal part that is of certain materials. There are materials that just need to be finished. You can’t just get it out of the printer and have it be ready to go.
You’ve got to do something else to it and here comes a problem of labor and process and other things that are in opposition to the beauty of additive manufacturing. I hate to say this but that’s a US problem. There’s not a problem for a Chinese manufacturer who decides they’re going to be a 3D print manufacturer to add a labor line and a post process line. It is not a problem and it will not be adding tremendous cost to it so it is a competitive US problem that means that the manufacturers are focusing on all the wrong things by not developing great simple post-processing and great materials to start from. Or machines that are able to not only 3D print the part but finish it all in the machine and then it comes out done. Maybe the post processing could be built into it in the first place which would be even better. It’s not just a US problem, it’s a global problem, Europe and other high labor countries.
You can believe, China is just going to throw more bodies and more labor at it. They can because they already do it and they already know how and they already know what the finished requirements are, which I really think is where a lot of our industrial manufacturing is missing the point. They do not understand what this needs to look like. At the end of the day, you’re still not talking about the people on what they’re going to make. You’re just like, “It can do anything.” That is a huge problem that has to shift right now in all of our thinking, and I hope that we’re going to keep hammering that out for as many more episodes as we can go. Which is the thinking of the whole reason we name the thing What the Fused Filament Fabrication and we could care less if it’s fused filament or metal beds or laser, powder bed fusion. It doesn’t matter to me what that is but the ‘what the’ is a part that you have to dial in and understand. If you don’t get it, understanding what you are making and stop saying, “It can make anything,” then you are not going to get specific enough to make it work.
The market for prototype parts is only so big. If the machines and materials and the companies that are out there to grow in this industry are really hanging their hat on prototype and parts and development. Not that that isn’t tremendously valuable, it is. There are probably industries that are a big enough market, like aerospace and such, for a lot of companies to exist. However, by far the real biggest market, the huge potential is the consumer market, manufacturing. How many plastic parts do we pump out everyday and import? If we don’t start thinking about the ‘what’ requirements and designing to those requirements, building materials for those requirements or engineering materials for the requirements and developing amazing finishes or innovations and machines that do finishing, then we will not be able to service that market and it will happen elsewhere.
We’re going to be limited to design, develop and distribute products that are only made of those materials. The machine can output where no more post-processing is necessary and it’s going to be limitations and service material finishes and colors. There are some products that will be okay with that but it will be a limited subset of products of the potential market. I can tell you right now, it won’t be worth it because the 85% of purchases influence store bought by women in this country will not take bad color, bad finishes. It’s not worth the distribution issues for a couple of products here and there. It won’t change anything. There will be no disruption if they do not solve those problems. There may be still markets to have in certain niches but it won’t be as broad for sure.
What do we see coming up in the future? What do we expect to see? I want to mention some things. We have seen the most popular episodes that we’ve done our projects. When we suggested cool projects that we tried out, like the marble machines is one of our top episodes ever. That still shocks us. The sundial is really popular and we do like that episode. The sundial was a fun one. There are a couple of really cool projects out there. You keep coming back to those. I know that they are popular because we see them come up on the top list every month. I think we need to go out there and search for some new projects. I think we need a lot more concerted effort on new projects.
We have designers. Our episodes on designers have been really popular. I enjoy them and I know you get a lot out of them because they are inspirational. They show you how great some work can be. They show you the steps people are taking to innovate when they can’t find the right materials. We want to keep bringing you more of those. We’re actually doing something. We’ve put it out there but we haven’t had a lot of great response to it so hopefully you can push out the message for us. Basically, we have a questionnaire that you can fill out, a form on our website at 3D Start Point and give us some background on you as a designer or you can nominate a designer you know. Whatever you want to do. Give us some details and then we’ll review them and decide, we may just put a blog post and links to their site and images on them or we may bring them on and actually do an interview on a show if it seems to be the right fit for us.
We’d like to highlight more designers and more innovative designs being created. Because they are so visual, some of them will fall into the, “Let’s do a great blog post,” and then others we will be like, “Let’s have a conversation because what they’re doing in their process is interesting.” We want to be able to do both. In that case, I’m talking about increasing the blog post on the designer level because I think we can do a lot more for them and bring you guys great exposure because our site is highly ranked. When we link to you, then that gets you a lot more exposure as a designer. That can be very useful for whether you have a Shapeways shop or a Sculpteo shop or maybe you’re doing your own thing like Danit. She is selling things directly over her website.
IP and business topics have been really popular. We’ve gotten a couple requests for some on-air mentorship sessions again. I hope we’ll do more of those because they are very, very useful. We’ll be pulling those in and letting you know other ideas. If you have specific business topics as you are growing businesses, let us know because we’re happy to structure episodes around that because we could talk about that all day.
Our reviews have been very popular. We’re going to continue reviews. We just need more companies who want to get a review. I find this absolutely shocking to me that they are not taking a better advantage of the fact that we don’t charge. You’ve got to send us some product but we don’t charge for that. There’s no reason for you not to have your product reviewed, your service reviewed, we’ve done services before, and materials. We love to test out materials. Send them our way, send us an email letting us know. We do schedule them in because some months, we’re on the road too much so we’re busy to do a review on that month. We’d love to do more of those.
The other thing I want to do is in 2018, we’re going to try to pool a questionnaire with all of the people we interviewed over the last 500 episodes. All of the interviews and companies we profiled and find out where they are. Do an update and we’ll put that as blog only but we’ll mention them. That reminds me that if you want to be notified when blog posts are posted, you have to be a part of the email list at 3DStartPoint.com. You can do it so you can get it every time a blog is posted or you can just get a weekly one. You can choose how frequently you want to receive messages. You have a couple of options there.
One more thing. I’m thinking maybe if you are interested after you hear the episode from the recruiter, maybe we should do something that has to do with resumes, student profiles, job listings. We should do something around that but we want to find out what you think would be the most useful there so let us know. I think there really is not a good resource. Obviously, LinkedIn is out there and it has everything. But would it make sense to have a resource that was very focused in 3D printing in this regard that made it easier than just searching on the sea of people out there on LinkedIn? I don’t know if it makes sense or not but I’m willing to explore that.
Core 77, if you are an industrial designer, product designer, graphic designer, all of the packaged designers, it’s more product-based, that site really came out of being very focused. That had served a lot of designers well for a time, especially freelancers who are looking for projects. It’s great that we have this amazing recruiter out there who is looking for 3D print additive manufacturing candidates for jobs. What about those who are freelancing out there? You are buried in Upwork and hidden away on 3D hubs, that’s not working for a lot of people. Maybe there needs to be something that we can facilitate or work with somebody to promote if you have listings out there. I think there may be a need and an opportunity there too. As we mentioned earlier, we’re still looking for, what kind of training? We really would like to incorporate a training program whether it’s a virtual evening class or a once a month thing, teach a project. What is it that you would want that we can teach you?
I want to just talk about a couple more things. I want to also go back to early 2016. There was all this talk about Mattel ThingMaker that was going to come out in late 2016 and it didn’t come out. They said it was delayed until 2017. Here we are again, the holiday season 2017 and it still has not come to pass. I’ve looked and I’ve researched on it but there’s no information. I just got the Amazon notice that it’s still not available yet. I don’t think it’s going to be, honestly. I don’t think they’re every going to it. There are certain projects and things that we’ve seen come and we had high hopes for because we are dealing with issues of brands that have a copyrightable characters and are going to allow people to engage and explore 3D printing with again, talking about the ‘what,’ the characters that a certain segment of consumers would what to buy. It never comes to pass.
I would love to get the behind the scene story on really what’s going on there and maybe somebody will write it and somebody it will come out. Some of these things just have not happened. It’s probably a combination of things in making a product that was safe as a easy-bake oven that Mattel thought was okay and from a liability standpoint, able to go out there. Also it has to do with maybe the distribution model and the retail channels and you see Toys R Us going through a restructuring bankruptcy. It’s not such an easy thing to do. Mattel has not been doing well so it doesn’t surprise me. Maybe Hasbro is going to buy them so who knows? Maybe it’s just internally the project lost steam. Do you have any thoughts for the future in 2018, what you expect to see or what you’d like to see? Our listeners are welcome to tell us what they think and I’d love to hear from them.
I don’t see enough progress happening in any particular area that interests me. I don’t see enough progress in the material side which I wanted to see by now that frustrates me. It has a lot to do with good textures and good colors. While we’ve seen companies that do color, it’s not the same thing when it’s not readily available. I think that there is a lot of patchwork stuff that needs to happen right now. There’s a ton of holes of things that are not functioning and not working so that the process can work better from design through the manufacturing. There’s going to be a lot of that in 2018. I think it’s going to be a rework year for a lot of companies. A lot of gap-filling, and that’s great for those who are going to be the small plug that goes in there and fills that gap and really build your business strong because of that and I really hope that helps a lot of people. I also think that there will be a lot of losses of companies this year. 2018, my prediction is there’s going to be a lot of shifting. More consolidation, more closures. I do think that that’s the case right now.
I do think that it’s going to continue to be as much investment from the VC word into the tech, but I think it’s not hot where people thought it was and that’s the mistake. I think people thought that we have all about the tech. We have to have cooler tech. I actually think that the VCs are at a high pace of recognition of it’s the connection to the market that matters. It’s your success as a team that matters. At the end of day, is this going to resonate with the largest community possible? I’m sorry but if you’re in a niche, it may be too small for VC.
I see that we know about certain companies that keep developing new FFF 3D printers. They’ve been developing them for a year or two and are just barely getting out to market. I keep wondering how much more development in that market can there really be? I think there can be a ton. I also predict that companies like Lucy Beard’s Feetz, not hers in particular. I have no inside information. I just want to add an example of a company where they are producing a product. Wiivv Wearables, they’re producing a product. They’re a consumer product that’s a 3D printer. Whether it’s consumer or an industrial product doesn’t really matter but they are producing a product every single day on the machines. They’ve hacked their machines to make them work better because you are most concerned about selling more machines as technologists are. You can’t get distracted with a particular niche function.
At the end of the day, what I think is going to happen is she’s going to make her machines. They should just start making their own machines and it’s going to be more profitable for them in the end of the day. To an extent they’re buying a machine that, as I understood it because she has talked about this with us and even from stages we’ve seen her speak in events, they are buying machines but the machine is out of the box, don’t do everything they need them to do. They draw up their own materials and they’ve actually hacked the machines to make them what they need to be so they’re going to be doing that probably even more so. Maybe it will make more sense at some point for them to just go have some manufacturer and make them exactly what they want instead of buying something and refitting it but that may work still too.
That’s why I think the company out of Colorado, Titan, that does the great big machines, those companies are going to do great coming up. They are doing something where it is custom built for particular purposes. It’s going to serve its purpose. That’s where I see that I think we’ll lose 3D print manufacturers because of that. They will have lost what was their biggest customer because their customer said, “Forget it. I’m just going to do it my own way.” because they’re big enough now and they can afford it now and it makes sense. It’s not the way to start up. Lucy Beard and all of them who are buying machines off the shelf, you need a machine that you can have somebody service for you. You don’t need to be building your own but when you get to a certain stage, that’s what the Invisalign people did. They have their own machines. You can’t buy those in the next supermarkets in the same way. Their machines are complete customized. I don’t know that they don’t know buy parts and pieces from other places but their machines are completely customized and proprietary.
Then they had a very specific thing that they needed to do and they wanted to make 60,000 a day and they make a lot of those things. You get to that point and it makes more sense for you to have your machines so we see that. That’s why I think there is going to be follow-up. I still think they’ll be enough big players that the industry continues strong and there are a lot of jobs. I’m still excited about the future of 3D printing and I want to continue to see what happens. I’m excited about the new companies cropping up. I’m tired of talking and I want doing happening. I want more doing, less talking.
We’d love to hear what you think, so please go 3DStartpoint.com. Leave us your comments, send us messages and go to our Facebook page, @3DStartPoint. We’d love to hear from you there. Thank you so much. We’ll be back for episode 501 and beyond. Stay tuned. This has been Tom and Tracy on WTFFF 3D Printing Podcast.
- Inside 3D Printing
- Women in 3D Printing
- CEL RoboxDual 3D Printer
- Jay Samit TEDx Talk
- Core 77
Listen | Download | View
Hear the episode of the WTFFF?! Podcast by using the player above OR click to download any episode.
Help Us Help You!
Have some feedback? Leave a comment below. We will read and respond
Please also review us on iTunes and share via the social media of your choice.