3D printing: A Beast Upsetting the Apple Cart?
Every time I think I have a handle on 3D printing and its potential to change the world, something comes along to suggest that I have no clue. In general, the big movers in the 3D printing space have employed a razor and blade business model whereby they offer the razor at a significant discount while offering the blades – in this case, printing materials – at a significant price hike.
But one company, 3COR, a 3D printing company in Ireland, is turning things on their head by printing with the kind of paper that's readily available in any office and most homes. So there's no effort to lock users into buying proprietary materials at a considerable markup through the printer's life. It's kind of like giving away razor blades to go along with your razor. But, of course, it seems more reasonable to discuss a company which prints with paper on a traditional printing blog. So there's that.
Anyway, what 3COR's technology does is employ selective deposition leveling, or SDL. which involves a water-based adhesive and a tungsten carbide blade to precisely adhere and cut paper one sheet at a time to create a three-dimensional object after multiple repetitions. They make both full cold and black and white printers which both use A4 paper, and they boast an operating cost that's at least 1/5th of the industry average. Their technology is only intended for prototyping and modeling applications for professionals seeking quick and affordable high quality prints. And it strikes this writer as a kind of techno Plaster of Paris. But anyway, while it isn't as versatile as other competitors platforms, there are significant cost savings.
But while 3COR's total potential market size may be more limited than other competitors, every product out there begins at the prototype or model stage. So a company like 3COR is positioned well to take advantage of this space. You're not going to print parts for a spacecraft or a jet airplane with it, but that's not exactly the sweet spot in the consumer business anyway. So 3COR may very well be able to carve out a significant chunk of the 3D printing business for itself. 3D Printing using run of the mill paper. Whodathunkit?