The 3d printing bubble

I have read at least one analysis of the financial bubble around the 3d printing industry and I have a pretty frank response. I don’t care. Sort of.

Of course I want 3d printing to succeed as an activity, but to me, it was always an activity meant for a particular group of a particular size. Sounds elitist doesn’t it? Not really, just “niche.” I think that’s a much better word.

Every bubble bursts they say, and the pundits of other industries buzz like flies until the market ultimately settles down. 3d printing to me had always been a thing OTHER people had access to and now, miracle of miracles, I OWN two 3d printers.

While some of the investment and excitement of 3d printing has slowed in some metrics, I can safely say no technology since the desktop revolution began has affected me as much as 3d printing.

But I am definitely one of a small contingent of people for which 3d printing is a perfect fit. I am a visual effects artist who models, textures, rigs, and animates various things. I also design, write, and self publish my own comics about original characters. Why WOULDN’T I need a 3d printer, is a much more valid question.

While most of the market for 3d printing follows a pattern much like Apple’s focus on education markets early in its history, 3d printing companies follow a similar path. They focus on designers, makers, and also educators but it’s some of the emerging niche markets that catch people off guard that I think might end up sustaining them just as  much.

In particular the pop culture niches, gaming, cosplay, food and fashion that turned up interesting and useful applications for 3d printing that were easier to grasp. Not everyone is going to invent and prototype widgets, but almost anyone can make costumes, mini gaming figures, jewelry or pancakes.

The first thing I wanted to print was the Gulanee from Defiance, a show I worked on and a 3d model I was proud to display. But the process of getting it printed was definitely easier for me since I already knew well and had access to 3d design tools to get the most out of a printer.

3d printing companies are still trying to keep the story going, but I think that’s part of MY job now. I want to do more, and more interesting things with my printers. 2016 is half over, and already I’ve designed my first consumer product, tested it and revised it. Last year, I only did what most other 3d artists did when they got 3d printers – they made kits from their 3d models. Toys, basically.

Nothing wrong with that. But like many people wondering what 3d printing is worth, I at least can search for at answer directly.