Over the past week, I’ve had several conversations plus have read several articles and listened to radio broadcasts on what some consider the newest print technology — 3-D Printing. In those discussions, there’s a notion that there might be a business opportunity for commercial printers in this technology. Just as many think there’s an opportunity for “printers” in the electronics industry (circuit boards).
I for one would like to challenge that thinking.
The word printing should not define our business – that form of thinking is fraught with dead ends. Business is about finding AND fulfilling a customer’s needs, and we have to think strategically in exploring those demands. If your business is in the visual communications industry, which is what I prefer to call our industry (creative, production, fulfillment/delivery in all its forms), are your customers demanding/needing 3-D printing? Circuit Boards? I didn’t think so. Thus, if we are going to be a 3-D printing company, we must search for those customers. That, my technologically-driven friends is the challenge.
Yes, there may be dramatically growing business opportunities in the world of 3-D printing and circuit boards, but does a commercial printer know how to reach that market? Understand the competitive pressures? Is there knowledge of the suppliers in this market space and what are the costs of manufacturing? What’s the real demand? How does he/she find the people who will sell and market to that market, AND run the equipment. And last, but not least, commercial printers are in an industry whose profit margins are minimal; thus, not only may a company lack the know-how, it more than likely lacks the capital.
So, let’s get real. 3-D printing is not printing – it’s a form of manufacturing. Ditto on circuit boards. Might there be a printing company who steps into that market space – sure there will be those companies. But as much as I hate to say it, a commercial printer will stand a much better chance of succeeding as a “marketing services provider” than a 3-D printing company.