After CES I started asking my friends and family about their knowledge about 3D printers. I was surprised to find out that although many people have heard of 3D printers, nobody really knew anything about them, nor did they have much interest in them. I truly feel that 3D printers are one of those rare technologies that emerge once or twice a decade that end up changing human history such as the television, computer, Internet, and cell phones. They all start quietly, being relegated to mainly nerds, enthusiasts and businesses, but eventually explode onto the consumer market and change all of our lives.
This is the first time where I think I caught a technology at the beginning instead of in the middle or the end. Its obviously a scary technology, because it could put my company out of business in 10 years, but I also think there is tremendous space for entrepreneurs to understand this technology and take advantage of it before it becomes mainstream.
After going to CES, I decided I had to buy a machine to tinker with. I decided on the Makerbot Replicator 2. It had good reviews and at $2,200 its reasonably priced.
The first item I printed out was a comb, and it actually works (I tried it on my Mother’s hair, but for obvious reasons it doesn’t work for me).
My mother thinks the technology is ridiculous and a waste of money. She said you could just go to Target and buy the comb for $2 and it would take about the same amount of time as you waited for the comb to print out. Of course she is right about that, but I remember when my father bought the Apple IIe which was one of the first personal computers, everyone also scoffed at the idea that it was anything more than a machine to play games with and do other not very useful tasks.
Its kind of exciting that people are laughing at this technology now, because I know its going to completely change the world around us. While at the store the salesperson that sold the Makerbot to me, told me that they sold 12 Makerbots to a non-profit that goes to Africa and helps make prosthetic hands using only this $2,200 Makerbot. There is a Youtube video about a Dad who made a prosthetic hand for his son using this same machine for basically just the cost of the machine, which was significantly cheaper than the $20,000 to $30,000 a normal prosthetic hand would cost.
I need to show my mom this video, I am sure she will change her tune.
I haven’t thought of a business to start with a 3D printer, but I thought by buying one I could start the process of at least understanding the technology, and hopefully a business idea will come to me, before the technology takes over!