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Resellers must "act now" to gain 3D printer advantage

14 Jul 14

Resellers need to act now to take advantage of the window of opportunity provided by 3D printers, says Paul Francois, Comworth Technologies 3D product manager.

The pace of development in technology is often measured using Moore’s Law.

The gist of it is that ‘the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit approximately doubles every two years’.

But there is another yardstick which is becoming apparent with the rapid consumerisation of 3D print technology. Just a year ago, a 3D printer in the home, small office or every school was an unlikely prospect.

That’s because a $3000-plus price tag made it too dear. However, today a good quality, reliable and capable device can be had at a retail price point of below $1000.

If we apply the concept of Moore’s Law to printers and dollars, you can buy more than double your 3D printer after the passage of just 12 months. What a difference a year makes!

What this means for resellers is two significant things:

• Inexpensive 3D printers mean the addressable market has expanded enormously, moving from niche- to mass-market.

• As this emerging market matures (and it is likely to do so quickly), the initial hardware opportunity will quickly shift to supporting services and expanded offerings.

3D printing has arguably achieved something in hardware that was last seen with the introduction of the smartphone: a device which has captured popular imagination, and along with it, headlines everywhere.

This reality considerably eases the task of marketers and those who are reselling 3D printers, particularly if:

• The device is affordable

• Delivers quality output

• Has the reliability expected of any consumer IT device today

The widespread public fascination with 3D printing even extends to the Green Party, which is promoting the use of 3D printers in schools, universities and business to position New Zealand as a global technology leader.

Take advantage of the window of opportunity

A window of opportunity has opened for resellers which hasn’t been seen in printing of any kind for the better part of two decades.

But that window will only remain open for a relatively short space of time (and remembering that this is the fast paced technology environment, predictions on that timeframe should be made with caution).

Resellers interested in adding 3D printing to their inventory only have a handful of recognised brands, such as Makerbot, XYZ Printers and UP, to choose from and therefore need to focus on the basics in selecting a suitable product line.

Choose a proven distributor who offers good sales and technical support to educate your team and local end-user support to minimise post-sales issues. Make sure the product is up to the task in terms of reliability, performance and quality.

For devices priced for schools, small and home office, and hobbyists, be certain it is as easy to set up and use as a regular printer, therefore providing customer satisfaction and reduced requirement for first line support.

But probably most important of all is to act now.

After all, practically brand-new market segments don’t open up every day, and the opportunity won’t last forever as inexpensive products will soon saturate the market.

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