2% of $1.8 trillion. Imagine if $36 billion of inventories were 3D-printed — in the USA alone.
Following on my previous post, here are some thoughts on what several CES and TCT conference speakers had to say.
CES Panel Discussion: CloudDDM, SAP, UPS
Interestingly, one of the Consumer Electronics Show’s panel discussions was actually titled “3D Printing and Its Industrial Potential.” Panelists focused on the current and pending impact of industrial 3DP. Among the session highlights:
- Alan Amling, VP of Logistics and Distribution at UPS likened the current situation to 1995 and the potential of the Internet. UPS jumping in now “because it changes the way companies produce and sell products,” potentially impacting its core package logistics business, making 3DP both a threat and an opportunity.
- Along those lines, Rick Smith, Co-Founder of CloudDDM, sees virtual inventory as “the first killer app for 3DP” and that industrial 3DP make-to-order production offers the potential for “an Uber model for controlled manufacturing.”
- Gil Perez, SVP of Products and Innovations at SAP, cautioned that not every product will — or should — be made from A to Z with a 3D printer. Furthermore, we still need consistent materials performance and predictable quality.
Four of CloudDDM’s 100 Material Extrusion Printers
Photo source: CNN
Manufacturers’ and trade inventories in the USA were an estimated $1.8 trillion as of last October. As Mr. Amling pointed out, just a 2% reduction of inventory levels enabled by 3DP — $36 billion in the USA alone — would be a huge benefit to manufacturers and retailers.
While the adoption of industrial 3D printers is not yet to the point where it can practically enable make-to-order production on such a scale, Gartner’s 3D printer market forecast indicates the market is driving in that direction. Shipments of industrial 3D printers will grow at 72.8% CAGR through 2019. Work being done by CloudDDM and UPS, and by SAP’s customers, is further evidence that 3D printing is not only here to stay but growing.
As I mentioned in my last post, the TCT conference on 3D printing had very interesting speakers. One of them was from Source3, “a platform for large-scale licensing and distribution of 3D and user-generated content.” The NYC-based startup traces its roots back to RightsFlow, an enterprise copyright licensing platform acquired by Google in 2011 that today is under the covers of YouTube and Google Play.
Scott Sellwood, Founder and VP Business Development, Source3
One of the well-known but unaddressed issues facing 3D printing technology providers and users is intellectual property protection. Gartner has predicted that by 2018, 3D printing will result in the loss of at least $100 billion per year in intellectual property (IP) globally. Importantly, 3D printers do not have to produce a finished good in order to enable IP theft. The ability to make a wax mold from a scanned object, for instance, can enable the thief to produce large quantities of items that exactly replicate the original.
So what are IP owners and licensees to do? Mr. Sellwood noted that 3D-printable user generated content (UGC) is inevitable. This content could be wholly new and unique or it could be an existing item that was modified. Indeed, he noted that 5% of people in the USA tweak purchased products. While that may seem high, I have tweaked my MINI Cooper S to perform better and many people have adapted and individualized everything from store-bought jewelry to clothing to hard goods.
Drawing on his experience at YouTube, Mr. Sellwood noted the 3D printing industry needs a platform that provides the same features to enable UGC:
- license with well-defined rights
- attribution through tags, metadata, image recognition and shape recognition
- monetization through sale of reproduced goods and on-demand production
- royalty systems with analytics
In a traditional business environment there are all kinds of governance and stewardship around IP that are in place — application governance, information governance, procurement practices, etc. Generally (but not always and not globally), business users benefit from the technology that is being governed so they have a vested self-interest in working within intellectual property guidelines. Consumers not so much.
Which gives content producers pause. How do they enable 3D printing of their property and products in a way that protects their brand and revenue streams? Napster forced the music industry to face this question and Pandora and other platforms evolved to meet consumer demand for music anywhere, anytime while providing revenue to the music content owners. YouTube’s platform was became accepted not so much as a threat but as an opportunity to monetize both business and consumer content.
Online platforms for global distribution and licensing of 3D-printable content makes good sense. The question will be whether one platform will become as ubiquitous as YouTube is or if multiple platforms serving niches products and regions becomes the norm.
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