On a regular basis, I hear people telling me that they do not know what to make with a 3D printer. Or that do not see the point of 3D printing or personal fabrication. In some cases, they take a look at the products available at Shapeways and do not find anything that interests them. They find it to be expensive or geeky or uninteresting. But it all boils down to relevancy! There is a lot of talk about the killer application for 3D printing. But how you look at it, it comes down to making things — making products. The challenge for 3D printing is to what you make relevant.
So what makes a product relevant? I see three factors, which makes a product relevant in the context of 3D printing:
- Design (form and function)
The design is all about form and function. The product has an intended use, and it should support that in an optimal way. The form itself should be appealing to the target audience.
Material should be applicable for the design and support the intended function of the product. Often it needs to look and feel good. But also longevity, resistance to outside influences and sturdiness are important requirements.
Price is a fluid definition with regard to relevancy. For instance a higher price for a particular product, can make it more relevant. The same applies the other way around. If it is too expensive, than it is simply not worth it, and it will not sell. Obviously price should cover cost and margin. In the end, the price should be in line with expectations of the target customers.
All three factors work together as a system. I mean with that better materials lead to higher price, which in turn can lower the product relevancy. It is a balancing act.
For example, you find a vase and want to have it made. The material is glazed ceramics. It measures 5x5x12 inches. Sounds good, right? If I tell you, the price ia $300 and delivery takes 3 weeks. Still interested? Another example you find a beautiful lamp shade. It costs $350, but it is absolute you stunning. But then you read that you have to use a LED or other low temperature bulb. Are you still willing to pay $350 for that?
3D printing is quite popular in high-end design. High-end design is less sensitive to cost. Larger pieces are expensive but high-end design can live with that. They also have margin to spare on post-finishing the products to improve the look and feel of the material, as well.
With Shapeways, we try to lower the barrier of entry for relevant products custom made using 3D printing. By applying mass-production know-how, and adapting it to unique one-off production, we are reducing the cost of 3D printing. We also invest in offering of post-finishing options to improve the look and feel of 3D printed products. It is our continuing quest to raise the relevancy of our product portfolio. It is our goal to enable everyone to buy, make and sell cool and relevant products on Shapeways.