Is 3D space the next dimension for print services?
Personalising the print space is one way the channel could help businesses grappling with higher end-user expectations Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, isn't the first technology that springs to mind when it comes to channel opportunities – yet speakers at this year's Print Show have hinted at a future value-add for clever partners battling ever-tighter margins. Frazer Chesterman, marketing strategist and co-founder of consultancy FM Future, points out that the print industry has often been "too technical", typically relying on promoting the speeds and feeds to get customer buy-in. Yet the world is changing and print must move with it. "People want personalisation," Chesterman says. "Compared to the last 40 years, we're now in a world that's more about the experience, identity, feeling, the experiential. People's expectations are higher -- ethical and cultural concerns are more important." And where consumers and individuals lead, businesses must follow if they want growth, even if this is "uncomfortable" for them, he suggests. "You need to think hard about diversification into areas that are more complex." He notes that selling increased complexity also means that all that businesses need to learn how to tell their story and represent their mission in a relatable, human way that customers comprehend and accept. "Today we're all much more critical – we're reviewing everything, all the time," Chesterman says. The world's not flat
So how does 3D print fit into this high-level view? Part of the answer is that the business world itself isn't flat. There are multiple dimensions to customer needs and one size doesn't fit all. For long-term sustainability, partners must continue to diversify in directions that customers want. Maryam Qureshi, applications engineer at HP, presented on the 3D print opportunity. She explains that although 3D printing represents a pathway to innovation that can meet higher customer expectations around personalisation or ethical considerations – like sustainability. "It can be quite difficult to understand the opportunities for additive, because it goes all the way from prototyping and up, whether you do it yourself or you use bureaus and services to do it for you," she says. "And it's about more than just printing." Opportunities already exist in healthcare, prosthetics and robotics, aerospace, digital production, warehousing, manufacturing and more. Manufacturing alone is a $2 trillion market, with just a tiny portion of 3D print's potential realised . . .