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Last month the 3D Printshow: New York 2014 (February 13-15, Metropolitan Pavilion, NYC) was in town. Gerhard thought that we should check it out.

From the brochure: "The 3D Printshow in New York is one of the most exciting shows to attend; a combined business,  arts, design, education and consumer event with cutting-edge technology, world exclusive features and some of the sharpest minds in the world of future-tech.  The NYC show will include some of the most incredible new content from around the globe."

One of the interesting concepts flouting around these days is the democratization of everything. Everybody can learn how to program, everybody can program a microcontroller like the Arduino, everybody can turn a single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi into whatever you want it to be, etc. And now everybody can print their own three dimensional objects. Move over Gutenberg!

But there is a problem – from my point of view: It is not that simple. If you want to go beyond running a program downloaded from internet on the Arduino making a few LEDs blink, it becomes pretty complicated. And even the downloaded program may not even work because it was written for a different Arduino version or for a different software version. And then you get these nice error messages that a function expected a different number of parameters or something similar. The same goes for 3D printing. Printing some random figures based on an online model is so exciting – even if it takes eight hours or more. But then what?

So we thought about investigating the idea if becoming a middleman between customers needing 3D printing services and the technology and hardware itself. Our impressions from the show follow below.

3D Printshow 2014

The participants of the exhibition can be divided into four categories:

  1. Companies manufacturing and reselling 3D printers
  2. Companies which own 3D printers and offer 3D printing services
  3. 3D modeling software developers.
  4. Others...

3D Printer Manufacturers and Resellers

Different printing technologies were presented and prices for printers started at $600.00 and went to over $100k. There were already machines printing in color, but the final products didn’t look that great yet. At least if you compared them with items, that were painted by artists, manually.

All companies suggested the same software to print. It's free, and you can import 3D models developed with any of most popular applications, such as 3D Max and Maya by Autodesk. Adobe presented a version of Photoshop with 3D modeling and printing availability, directly from Photoshop.

When I asked reps about who is buying and using the printers, the response was always: "Hmmmm, hobbyists, architects, teachers, artists, …". The first response was always hobbyists…

3D Printing Services

These companies focus on "regular" customers without any industry background. Their slogans go like this: "You have an idea, we print it". The services covers all the steps from 3D modeling (which requires specialized skills) to the printing of the final product. Their equipment is rather amazing, some of them even offer 3D metal printing.

3D Modeling Software Developers

The 3D modeling software companies offered their products in the range between $300.00 and $500.00. The most well-known company was Adobe offering a new version of Photoshop with 3D modeling capability for $9.99/month. Overall the applications were similar to each other, but Sixense Entertainment presented a virtual reality environment for 3D modeling with motion-tracking system.

Other companies

Other interesting companies at the show included:

  • A company offered microchips for droids and was suggesting to use 3D printers to create some small parts of a droid.
  • A web platform to publish 3D models; like for videos.


3D printing is really innovative and a revolutionary technology. It is very interesting and fun, but it is not yet really clear if there is/will be a real market and if there will be a mass market. (I just remember that I recently read something similar about the PC – an alleged misquote attributed to Thomas J. Watson, CEO of IBM in 1943: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers"). Nobody really knows why anybody would need one. Another reason for printers being a tough sell is that they are slow. Small figurines can take up to 6 hours to be printed. Materials and equipment are relatively cheap and don’t justify high prices of the final product. Most the work and added values happens on the level of the 3d modelling.

3D printing opens new possibilities and a wide open space that we have to fill. Software and hardware will become better and print time faster. Ideas will evolve and the space will change.

Once we started to look into this technology in more detail it became transparent for us that even we with our highly IT background don’t have the right tools in our repertoire. To do great 3D modelling you need a background as an engineer or architect. Just knowing how to program, setup a 3D printer etc. doesn’t cut it. If you have any ideas how we could fit into this picture, please touch base with us.