People who pay attention to the tech space love to wax hypothetical about how 3D printers could become a driving force in the future (myself included).Despite all the praise heaped upon these devices, they still feel very specific and narrow-purposed, with only the most devoted DIY types using them for their projects.
So what will it take for desktop 3D printers to go mainstream to the point that the technophobes will want to buy them and learn to use them well?
This is the question we posed to Matt Griffin, an expert in the 3D printing field at work for electronics company Adafruit.
“It’s all about the works produced on 3D printers,” he told us. “When people see what’s possible, that’s what drums up interest. There are a number of printers in the $600 to $1,200 range able to do some amazing stuff, some of them out of the box.”
Up until now, much of desktop 3D printing revolved around simply getting the machines up and running, just to gawk at the fact that they worked at all. But Griffin told us that he expects major improvements this year.
“I think we’ll see a big shift toward focusing on what they can actually do, not that they just work.”
And Griffin is quick to dissuade anyone who thinks the devices are for tech-centric DIY types.
“My sister is a jewelry designer and never would’ve thought of these as the right tools for her. But she doesn’t see them as robotics projects. She’s developing skills with 3D design skills even though she’s used to making things with her hands.”
So 3D printing seems to have two hurdles to clear before the layperson becomes aware (and even interested). First, people need to see the things they can make with the printers. Second, it has to fight off the perception that it’s a field for quirky eccentrics.