3D Systems is announcing a big range of products at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014. Below find my interpretations of this launch. I found this video interesting (and long).
Some of my reading between the lines:
3D Systems is talking about complete solutions, not hardware. They are positioning and branding a range of products for specific customer segments. They talk of what customers can do with the products — the valuable output, and why they should be appealing rather than speeds and feeds. This is likely to bring them success in areas where customers actually agree. Products are being presented with the software and input devices that are needed to make the process of printing easy. Naturally, it is too early to tell how well it will all work together, but ease of use is extremely important in getting end-user adoption.
- ChefJet™ Series - kitchen-ready 3D printer category for edibles. The first two printers in the series are the monochrome, countertop ChefJet 3D printer and the full-color, larger format ChefJet Pro 3D printer. Both are expected to ship in the second quarter of 2014.
- CeraJet™ - The CeraJet prints intricate and detailed ceramic objects fast using our ColorJet Printing (CJP) technology, that are ready for glazing and firing. It is expected to ship in the second half of 2014.
- CubeJet™ -a desktop 3D printer that makes full-color, high-resolution parts for modeling and end-use parts. It is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2014.
- Touch™ - a haptic-based, consumer 3D mouse for 3D sculpting and design with instant force feedback that mimics the sense of physical sculpting. Priced at $499 including Cubify® SculptTM software, Touch is expected to ship during the second quarter of 2014.
- 3DMe® Photobooth – a physical photography pod for bringing the 3DMe experience to event floors and retailers. It can make instant 3D face captures for mashing with personalized and licensed figurines. It is expected to ship in the second quarter of 2014.
- iSense™ 3D scanner - a new 3DS consumer scanner for iPad. The iSense is ideal for physical photography. Users simply attach the iSense to an iPad, and they can literally walk around and scan entire objects or environments obtaining a photorealistic copy of the real thing.
There is still a big novelty value driven by consumers’ keen interest in personalization. Who would not like to be Luke Skywalker or their favorite character? It is less clear whether making unique candy with a 3D Printer, for example will appeal to customers. On the cake decorating front, larger cake makers may find custom decoration of wedding cakes will be cost-effective. There are now much less time consuming and expensive ways to print with edible ink and paper.
Products such as CeraJet Pro and ChefJet are really more appropriate for professional studios or service providers since their price points are reaching into the $10,000 range. The presence at CES seems to be designed to open the doors of the consumer mind and then appeal to service providers to make investments.
My guess is that rather than replacing well loved processes like the potter’s wheel, ceramic printing will allow new applications and coexist with existing art forms. We found that artists don’t often embrace the computer since a large part of making art is in the tactile enjoyment of working with the materials.
They are paying close attention to the input side of the business. It is important to offer products that digitize physical people and objects to then be further combined or “mashed” with other objects. Touch looks like a companion for a CAD designer that is building a model point by point. iSense brings another creative tool to any iPad for physical photography, and the Photobooth equips stores with 3D Scanning and printing kiosks.
3D Systems appears very unafraid of pre-announcing products that may not ship until the second half of the year. Usually this happens if a company does not fear that the new products will cannibalize existing product sales, or if they are hoping to pre-empt their competitor moves.
Their branding is memorable. For example, their use of the term: “Physical Photography” is a great metaphor for associating 3D Printing with a well known existing technology. While 2D photography has moved largely from the physical world to the computer, tablet and phone, 3D printing has the opportunity to bring ideas and designs out of the computer back to the real 3D world.
I would have expected a company that has been in business for 30 years to let themselves be victims of the Innovators Dilemma. That is: protecting existing processes and product profits against the onslaught of new, low-end products that advance more quickly. This does not seem the case at all. They are covering the market by purchasing companies and partnering, so that they can make a very wide range offering from industrial to the home user.
An oddity in all this marketing fun was their target “Man cave” for some products. Is 3D Printing really a “guy thing”? Will they work on a print during football game commercials? Perhaps a survey told them that more 3D printing is done by males today, but don’t ignore the creative women! Let’s see if in a few months they have the kaffeeklatsch model.
Finally, Avi Reichental, CEO of 3D Systems is a pretty good pitchman for his company, and from the looks of it has a lot of “good friends”.
Let’s check back in the July to see how all the product launches worked out.
All images by 3D Systems Inc.