It Is Easy For People To Miss Disruptive Trends

from the and-then-they-look-silly-for-it-later dept

People are notoriously bad at recognizing important trends in innovation. It's most commonly seen in people dismissing some new technology or service as being unimportant. Over and over again, people seem to think that the world is static and thus, people "won't need" certain technologies in the future. There are statements like Ken Olsen's from DEC claiming that "there is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home" (which he has since claimed was taken out of context) or Charlie Chaplin claiming: "The cinema is little more than a fad. It's canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage." Those are both from this excellent list of failed technology predictions -- including a bank telling Henry Ford that "the horse is here to stay" and that the car is just "a novelty -- a fad," and multiple people arguing that there is no need for the telephone, including the head of the British Post Office, noting (helpfully) "we have plenty of messenger boys." Oh, and "Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night." That's from someone who worked as a movie producer for Fox.

There are many more at that link, and I imagine in a few decades or so, the prediction from TechCrunch that "there is no reason for any individual to have a 3D printer in their home" would fit nicely among those other ones. There's just something about new and disruptive technologies that causes otherwise intelligent people to completely dismiss them. I still chuckle at people who thought that cameraphones were just a fad because their initial quality wasn't that good.

Technology advances and gets better and better. And a disruptive technology's best trick is that it does something completely new that you couldn't have done before. And that's the part that seems to trip people up. You don't need 3D printing in your home now, the thinking goes, so it'll never be worth having in your home. Entrepreneur Mark Birch has a really good response to the TechCrunch claim, noting that a lot of people completely miss disruptive trends when they start:
It is easy to miss the disruptive trend when it is first happening. Because it is often the nerds that are leading the charge, no one pays it any mind. There certainly is some initial hype, but it usually fades quickly because there is nothing for the mainstream to latch onto. They need to see and touch something and thus it is hard for non-geeks to make the mental leap in how the novel technology could be important for their everyday lives. People are looking for applicability when that does not exist in the early days.

The reality of 3D printing is that it is not for everyone right now. In fact, only the most hardcore techie could really get into it and fork over the $1000 for the setup. Very few people can fathom why one would want a 3D printing in his or her home. But people said the same thing when the first dot matrix printers came on the market. They were clunky and slow and expensive and broke down all the time. Plus, who would want to print stuff at home anyway other than computer nerds? Now practically every home has a color printer capable of producing high-quality photos, greeting cards, spreadsheets, novels, and the kid’s homework.

There are plenty of things to be skeptical about, but never underestimate what the geeks are working on. When you get past the hype cycles of “next big thing” and look deeper, you find that all that tinkering and experimenting is leading to something that is pretty remarkable and world changing. It might be hard to see at first, but with a little imagination and time, those early experiments generally lead to entire new industries and to the next generation of great companies.
I'd take it even further. I'd say that if people aren't missing the trend, then it's not disruptive. What makes disruptive innovation so disruptive is often the very fact that so many people dismiss it and insist that nothing will come of it. It's that dismissiveness that often helps the innovation become so powerful, because it gets better and better while people are so busy writing it off. And then, suddenly, it's ready and the world wants it. And the incumbent players, who dismissed it, all feel taken by surprise.

It's easy to miss disruptive trends when they arrive -- but the long term impact of doing so can be quite disastrous for those about to be disrupted.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:07am

    And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

    Such as the Segway. What a crock: ever consider what'd happen to you if those lose traction? Faceplant or back-breaker.

    Anyway, yes, I'd LIKE to have a 3D printer, but current models are ridiculous toys that only stick thermoplastic together rather like you can do with an electric glue gun, just computerized! Whee!

    Much more handy would be a real 3D milling machine: those exist but are of course out of the toy price range.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:19am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      "Anyway, yes, I'd LIKE to have a 3D printer, but current models are ridiculous toys that only stick thermoplastic together rather like you can do with an electric glue gun, just computerized! Whee!"

      ...and they will NEVER improve beyond that point - so you might as well ignore it and forget any possibilities it might raise in the future if it becomes a mainstream device, especially those that affect current industry models, right?

      Congratulations, while attacking the article, you came perilously close to actually understanding its point.

      "those exist but are of course out of the toy price range."

      For now. If you were in business, would you be better dealing with that possibility now, or after it's already started reducing your customer base?

       

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      :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:21am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      Ya know, I had the same experience with the first phone--damn useless wired toy. I could only ever speak to a girl named Operator (Oprah, for short) and she was a very boring conversationalist.

       

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      Rikuo (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:28am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      Yes, that's what 3D printers are NOW, but once they're improved upon...

      Ya know, this is what the article said. That new technologies are often crap now, but do improve later and become mainstream.

       

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      out_of_the_mind, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:38am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      And just because OOTB does not see a practical application for him/her its useless. Thanks for making Mike's point.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:44am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      I call Poe's. That must be a parody account.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:13am

        Re: Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

        I've thought the same thing for a while now. The alternative is just too depressing.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:06am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      You can pick up a benchtop cnc mill for $4k, it will have limited capacity but will get the job done.
      Funny thing, the widespread talk of 3d printer is driven from the guys that pushed their homemade $4k benchtop mill to the breaking point and beyond.

      There's several guys on youtube that just experiment and fire up their machines for no other use than to see what happens. That is just fine for me because somewhere a kid will pick up on it and go further and that will keep experimenting.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:19am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      Exactly, ootb. Remember the words of wisdom about the computer.

      "I can see no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home."
      "Everything that can be invented, has been invented."
      "There will likely be no more than five computers worldwide."

      Words of wisdom to live by. The computer was just a wacky gadget hailed by credulous weenies, right? And since you're clearly not a credulous weenie... you shouldn't be on a computer, right?

       

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      Keroberos (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:50am

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      Typical reading comprehension fail.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      I guess you haven't heard about the car you that was built by a 3D printer, the plans for which are freely downloadable from the school that created it.

      Or the formula race car "print" also available for download/printing. Freely available from the school that created it. (Did I mention it goes over 160 MPH? And is entirely made from printable parts.)

      So yes, "Whee!"

      Again OotB, why do you bother commenting? Here you are knocking something which you have no understanding of. And in point of fact, you're reaffirming the point of the article. YOU are the kind of person who doesn't realize the potential some of these amazing and revolutionary devices have.

       

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      Another AC, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as "revolutionary".

      Is this dismissive sarcasm?

       

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      Indie films, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 3:08pm

      Re: And credulous weenies hail every wacky gadget as

      Segway just proves the rule. EVERYONE wanted a Segway, the hype was insane. Then it came out and everyone realized it wasn't actually solving any problems or making life any easier, it just looked futuristic.

       

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    DannyB (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    For 3D printing -- expect revival of ye olde print shoppe

    I expect to see local businesses that do 3D printing in small runs for you. Just bring in your USB stick with a 3D design.

    Before Laser and Inkjet printers, print shops were the way you got something nicely printed -- even as trivial as church bulletins or party invites.

     

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      Michael, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:43am

      Re: For 3D printing -- expect revival of ye olde print shoppe

      I do too, and if they were really smart, they would be called "The UPS Store" - because that's one of the first businesses that can really be disrupted by 3D printing. Who is going to want to wait for their part to ship when they can order it and pick it up at the printer the same day.

      Prices for printers will drop and quality and diversity of materials will increase and at some point, they will hit the tipping point in which having one at home will add enough convenience that people will start paying for it. And then it will eventually get to the point of being cheaper than shipping or getting something 3D printed professionally.

      This is one of the technologies that shouldn't be 'disruptive'. It is such an obvious parallel to personal printers in so many ways, many of the companies that are beaten up by this one should fail. It will still be a tricky technology that will eat up markets that we cannot imagine would be impacted, but shipping companies and warehouses full of small items should take note now - umm...we aren't going to need you much longer.

       

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        DannyB (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:11pm

        Re: Re: For 3D printing -- expect revival of ye olde print shoppe

        > if they were really smart, they would be called "The UPS Store"
        > Who is going to want to wait for their part to ship when
        > they can order it and pick it up at the printer the same day.


        Hey, if it is The UPS Store doing my 3D printing, then why do I have to pick it up? If they were really smart, they might figure out some way to deliver it locally. This might require them to invest in some trucks and drivers, etc.

        (But don't use Apple Maps.)



        > at some point, they will hit the tipping point in which having
        > one at home will add enough convenience that people will start paying for it.

        I agree. But before that happens, it is inevitable that multi-material printers that work in metals, plastics, etc, will not be cheap enough to have at home. Hence the temporary revival of Ye Olde Print Shoppe, or UPS store as you call it.



        > many of the companies that are beaten up by this one should fail.

        Yes they should. At this point, what will happen is beyond obvious. And then there are the really cool things that it will enable that we can't even think of yet.

        (Dear UPS Store, attached is my 3D model. Please print me 80 copies of this personal media player that has 200 movies and 2 million songs preloaded?)

         

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    Ninja (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:13am

    What about that line when Gates said no1 would need more than 600-something kb (the old conventional memory in DOS environment)? He was a few zeros wrong lol!

     

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      DannyB (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:17am

      Re:

      That's worse than not seeing disruptive innovation.

      That's not even seeing basic evolution. If Bill Gates (or whoever might have said it) actually thought 640 K was enough, because that was much larger than growing memory demands had grown to, then what would have made him think they wouldn't continue to grow beyond that boundary?

       

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      PlagueSD (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:18am

      Re:

      That would be 640kb. And yes...I do remember that headache. nowadays, even 4GB isn't enough (the 32-bit OS limit.)

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:29am

        Re: Re:

        "...even 4GB isn't enough (the 32-bit OS limit.)"

        The Linux Kernel has supported PAE (Physical Address Extension) for a long time now. PAE allows 32-bit OS's to address more than 4GBs of memory (in the case of Linux, up to 64GB, if I am not mistaken).

        Just because Microsoft is incompetent, that doesn't mean that others are too.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:53am

          Re: Re: Re:

          PAE allows the OS kernel to utilize more than 4gb RAM, but each 32bit application is still limited to 4gb of virtual memory.

          Furthermore, PAE is not magical, it's quite a hack, involving the addressing of multiple "banks" of RAM rather than a linear address space.

          If you're gonna go with Linux and > 4gb RAM, you might as well just use a 64bit flavor at this point.

          And finally, Windows has supported PAE since the Windows 2000 days, but Microsoft chose to artificially limit which versions of their OS/kernel supported it. This was intentional, to prevent people from utilizing a "consumer" version of Windows from running high-end database or server software that required large amounts of RAM. There was no "incompetence" here other than by those people who chose to buy Microsoft software in the first place ;)

          Please get your facts straight before bashing...

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:06am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "PAE allows the OS kernel to utilize more than 4gb RAM, but each 32bit application is still limited to 4gb of virtual memory.

            Furthermore, PAE is not magical, it's quite a hack, involving the addressing of multiple "banks" of RAM rather than a linear address space."

            Ah, thanks for the enlightenment. I knew that PAE was kind of a hack, I honestly didn't know the details.

            "If you're gonna go with Linux and > 4gb RAM, you might as well just use a 64bit flavor at this point."

            Of course.

            That will require 64-bit support from the CPU, but given that these days you probably can't even buy a 32-bit CPU any more (are Atoms still 32-bit only?), that is the best option, rather than go with the hack.

            "And finally, Windows has supported PAE since the Windows 2000 days, but Microsoft chose to artificially limit which versions of their OS/kernel supported it."

            Thanks Microsoft. /sarc

            "Please get your facts straight before bashing..."

            Okay-dokey. I shall BASH more carefully in the future then :)

             

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            Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:17am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I view artificial limits as a form of incompetence. They are doing civilization a disservice on purpose; incompetence at best, malevolence at worst, all in the name of quick profits at the expense of society.

             

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        P. Edantic, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:09am

        Re: Re:

        That would be 640kb

        Acutally, that would be 640kB

        b is for bit(s) (1/8th of an 8-bit byte)

        B is for byte(s) (8 bits in an 8-bit byte)

        It's not my rule - I'm just poiting it out.

         

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          P. Edantic, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:14am

          Re: Re: Re:

          (Tries again:)

          Actually, that would be 640kB.

          b is for bit(s) (1/8th of an 8-bit byte)

          B is for byte(s) (8 bits in an 8-bit byte)

          It's not my rule - I'm just pointing it out.

           

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        Ninja (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 3:26am

        Re: Re:

        And to remember the first operational system I ever installed by myself fit on less than a dozen 3.5 diskettes... Amusing!

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 1:46am

      Re:

      He maintains that he never actually said that, and there is no actual proof that he ever did. Just another of those things floating around that may or may not be true, and can't ever be proven.

       

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    DannyB (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:15am

    It's easy to dismiss new disruptive tech as unimportant

    When automobiles first made the scene, it may have seemed wise when someone wrote that the automobile would never replace the horse and carriage. The horse and carriage had stood the test of time. The automobile was smelly, noisy, difficult and perhaps even dangerous to crank start. It was unreliable. And worse of all, it frightened the horses.

    So it's easy to see how dinosaurs consider their thoughts to be wise when they pan disruptive new tech.

    Back in the 90's there was a PBS program called (if I recall correctly) "The Machine That Changed The World". It was about microcomputers. At one point in one of the interviews, talking about paradigm shifts, the interviewee said something like: big and entrenched business never sees the next paradigm shift coming. So they hire smart people to tell them when it is coming. Then when they tell them its coming, or even its here, they never believe it.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:22am

    I'd say part of the reason it's missed is that the fact that the initial capabilities of a device only hint at what will ultimately be possible. Take for example the telephone mentioned above. Yes, in terms of its initial capabilities, it probably wasn't that impressive. Most of the people you'd want to talk to would likely be close enough to visit, it would have been too expensive to say as much in a long distance call as you could in a letter and so forth. But, in the long term as things improved, it not only improved its own capabilities to a huge degree, it also made other things possible that nobody could have dreamed - from the internet to modern mobile communication.

    That's where the real innovation comes in. Yes, the TV was unimpressive compared to a cinema screen, but it enabled not only its own evolution but the videogame industry as well. Gramophones were once a poor substitute for sitting around the piano with a group of friends, but now look what's happened. I bet the first cars seemed rather silly compared to a good old horse carriage in its early days, but would even recognise this world if it had never existed? I doubt it.

    I think that's part of the reason why these innovations are so disruptive to begin with. They really do look like toys or fads to the unimaginitive, and by the time their true potential can be seen, it's often too late to catch up.

     

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      The eejit (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:10am

      Re:

      See also: iPod, Game Boy, Saturn. Whilst not all of these were successes, tey were all disruptive to thwir respective markets.

       

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      Mason Wheeler (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:44am

      Re:

      The interesting thing about the telephone (and several other examples) is how much the inventors themselves miss the potential of the invention.

      When Bell originally invented the telephone, he didn't use it for calling people; he used it as essentially a Muzak system, sending music from one place to another by wire. It was sold as a novelty to a few towns, where some people would occasionally use it to communicate messages back and forth from time to time.

      But in 1878, that all changed. A doctor managed to use his "speaking telephone" to summon a bunch of other doctors to the scene of a train wreck, which resulted in many lives being saved. This got a lot of press coverage, and it revolutionized Bell's invention. Suddenly it wasn't a curiosity anymore; this was something that could save your life, or that you could use to save someone else's life!

      When that got into the newspapers, suddenly everyone wanted one, and Bell became a millionaire almost overnight. He never really saw that coming, though. It took one person to do the inventing, and another to do the disrupting.

       

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      Guy, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:39pm

      Re:

      You make the mistake that all innovations have taken off though. A lot of people switched to Netflix streaming but most people still by DVDs instead of Blu-Rays. Lots of people have a DVR but not many have bought a Roomba that has been out for 10 years now. Tons of people pay a lot of money to text message but no one makes a video call.

      I can't tell you how many times I've heard that video calls are going to be the next big thing. "Facetime is now on 3G everyone will use it now!" Some things just aren't what the public/mainstream want. I think 3D printers are in the same league as the people who were claiming we were going to have flying cars and nuclear power supplies in every home. There really are physical and economic limitations to some things and 3D printing has them. Then again I'm sure we are only 10 years away from figuring out how to fix the radioactivity of nuclear power and the power issues for making a normal car fly...

       

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        Mason Wheeler (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:02pm

        Re: Re:

        People make video calls all the time. I was just using Skype a while back to talk with my brother in Russia, for example.

        The technology's taking a bit longer to become mainstream, but it's definitely getting bigger.


        My grandpa was in World War II,
        he fought against the Japanese.
        Sent a hundred letters to my grandma
        from his base in the Philippines.

        I wish he could see this now,
        the world they saved has changed, you know,
        'cause I was on a video chat this morning
        with a company in Tokyo.


        --Welcome To The Future, Brad Paisley

         

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        Tim Griffiths (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 6:19am

        Re: Re:

        The difference between the 3d printer, flying cars and home nuclear power supplies is that we already have consumer grade 3d printers in peoples homes. They may not be very good, they may cost too much and be for people who have an interest in the idea but they exist. You can buy one and use it in some limited form.

        What also exist are the commercial grade 3d printers, which are currently vastly most expensive but vastly better are used in a number of industries and are constantly being improved on.

        We've seen that as technology advances prices come down so it's not out of the question that versions our current commercial grade printers will end up in the home and they have a wide range of applications.

        The 3d printer unlike flying cars or nuclear powered homes exist and is already useful and it will to grater or less extent be disruptive. We have to be careful not to swing the other way and make grand predictions that fail to come true but there is a growing sense of where 3D prints are starting to go and they may go far.

        Yes it maybe limited but it might not be and ignoring what it could become is going to leave you flat footed when it does. Which is the point made here. Mistakes are made when you dismiss something because it may come to nothing.

         

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    Keii (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:41am

    I am so excited to see 3D Printers coming to home at affordable prices in the future.
    I can't wait to be able to print my own miniatures for D&D/Pathfinder and other assorted tabletop games.

     

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      Jay (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 8:12pm

      Re:

      And here I thought I was the only one thinking this...

      Now all you'll need for a game is am internet connection, a printer, and a hard drive for all the extra books.

       

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    Forest_GS (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:49am

    I expect to see a 3D printer in every wallmart in 5 to 10 years.

     

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      Michael, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      For sale, or printing your merchandise?

       

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        Forest_GS (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:11am

        Re: Re:

        I imagine it'll be similar to those photo kiosks. Custom skins for all phones, tablets, glasses frames, etc. Home Depo could use them easily as well. So many custom old doorknobs and bath faucet knobs/handles that could be made on-site.

         

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          Tim Griffiths (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 6:26am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I've suggested lego should jump on the band wagon. Build a kiosk that keeps it's self stocked with basic bricks and bits with an option for people to print anything from legos whole range. Given you don't have to package or stock individual item and can avoid most other retailer overheads it could make economic sense. Just send some one to top up it's printing material every ones in a while and your done.. guess there some issues with how you do any detailed surface printing and such but it would be worth lego trying given that for basic building blocks they are going to be in a bit of trouble if 3d printing becomes common.

           

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        Tim Griffiths (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 6:33am

        Re: Re:

        Think of all the plastic crap that most store have to buy in and stock. It may makes sense before too long to have their own on site 3d printers especially if those 3d printers can print larger objects than what ever the most common size for home use ends up being.

        In terms of straight up printing you still have high quality print shops because most people currently don't need an A1 size printer or will have the room for it at home. As such the price isn't driven down as much either. Which is not to say long term people won't be able to print A0/1 at home but the larger the printed object (in both cases) the less likely the common day to day need is likely to be.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:49am

    "It Is Easy For People To Miss Disruptive Trends"

    The opposite is also quite true.

    Sometimes, some see a disruptive new force where there is none.

    "The cloud" would be a prime example.

     

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      Michael, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 10:53am

      Re:

      I think you are mistaking the renaming of an existing technology (that has been quite disruptive) for it being new.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:20am

        Re: Re:

        Maybe if a new technology is recognized for its potential too early by the masses it cannot be disruptive or as game changing. Maybe it must be dismissed by the masses at first in order to gain traction. Just sayin'.

         

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    Todd (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:30am

    Little Leaguer hits pop fly - film at 11

    That techcrunch prediction won't fit nicely on any list in a few decades. The difference is that all of those memorable quotes from important people mattered. The techcrunch thing is just some irrelevant idiot showing his lack of imagination on the internet. Hardly unique. And, yes, I see the irony of making that statement.

    I don't know the score from last night's NFL football game, but I am quite sure that it will be remembered more widely and for far longer than the journalistic gem that you linked to here.

     

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    Guy, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:00pm

    Not So Sure

    Now, for most innovation I'd agree 100% that people don't understand the fast growth of technological change, but for this one I am a bit hesitant about it. The issue with the 3D printer is that it is not social. If you look at many of the innovations that went really big really fast with the mainstream the majority are able to be used in a social way. The car allowed for people to get together faster than before. The phone allowed for more contact. The telegram. The cell phone. Most the people I knew bought a computer pretty much to use AOL. The TV and radio are also social.

    And really, what does the average consumer gain from a 3D printer? Mass manufactured goods are already really cheap. I can't see how printing screws at home would ever be cheaper than getting them from home depot, even if home depot just prints the screws there themselves (they would get bulk discounts on the metal/plastic/whatever). No one will be keeping toxic metals around so printing something like a light bulb or plasma TV is out.

    Call me when we have replicators, that would be a paradigm shift.

     

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      ChronoFish (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

      Re: Not So Sure

      What exactly is the difference between a replicator and 3d Printer. It's semantics.

      Not social? Try this: "Hey Jim, that is a really cool phone case. Can you send me the make file?"

      Go be social with these people: http://www.thingiverse.com/

      Printing screws: You miss the point. You don't need to assemble with a 3dPrinter (sure you do "today", but not tomorrow). Screws are probably the last thing you'll print (unless you're missing one and you don't want to drive 15 minutes to Home Depot, take 15 minutes to search for the screw you want. Wait in line for 15 minutes and then drive 15 minutes home. Sure it's only $0.25 (plus gas) but also an hour out of your life - for one screw. What you are more likely to be printing is a screwdriver or some other multipurpose tool. Or a new camera. (yes 3d printers will be able to print electronics in the "thing" you're printing).

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:36pm

      Re: Not So Sure

      It's not social now, but it will be.
      I imagine Tupperware parties on Skye where everyone will buy the plans and print their own lettuce keepers.

      But even more important is that the people won't have to schlep around all that Tupperware from party to party anymore.

       

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    Mike42 (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    The real question is, what could you do if you had access to an huge variety of small-to-medium-sized plastic parts to customize your home with? Don't like the knobs on your kitchen cabinets? Redo them with a faux metal finish. Your chopsticks are broken? Print some new ones. That stupid bracket broke on your can opener? Go to the manufacturer's web site and download the printing plans for a replacement.
    Right now all of our plastic items are mass-produced from two or three piece molds, by injection, vaccuum forming or blown. What new items will be available once we can produce items layer by layer?

     

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    ChronoFish (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 12:51pm

    3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

    Common complaints - then ask "what happens when":

    Too expensive: Seriously? $1000 (and less). Your computer costs more. Laser (laser quality) printers used to cost 2x that. Okay fine. They are too expensive. What happens when they cost $120? That's (likely) cheaper than your phone - and about the cost of a nice ink-jet printer.

    Can only make prototypes and only using low-grade resin: Hmmm no. There are low-melt metals that can also be used. But what happens when they print in copper, plastic, aluminum, carbon, ceramic, cotton, wool, fleece, steel, gold, rubber....?

    You can only print small pieces: The technology is scalable. Limited only by your space. Do you have a deep-freeze in your garage? A work bench? in you basement? What happens when home builders start to incorporate an appropriate space for your fabricator? What happens when a fabricator can be built into the garage for dual-use purposes? Just drive the car out of the garage and now you have room to create a car-sized item.

    What ever the criticism is, just ask what happens when that is no longer a barrier to entry. Price, size, content. None of these things are permanent barriers.

    Who get's disrupted? Governments: China no longer becomes the manufacturing power-house. Unions: Jobs won't be going to China...but they aren't coming home - they will be lost forever. Manufactures: Those who migrate to idea shops and engineering will have at least a hope of survival...Otherwise they simply won't exist. Supply chain? Moving of "things" for reasons other than stocking stores will continue. Food will continue to be transported. Trade will continue to be healthy. But there will be no trucks stocking the Autozone, because there will be no Autozone.

    Bike shops, car parts, toys stores, clothing stores, etc....Other than show-rooms and service, there will be little need for them. Many fix-it places will go away because we'll just print and replace and not worry about "why" something doesn't work.

    The transition from brick and mortar to eCommerce will pale in comparison.

    -CF

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 2:45pm

      Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

      You forgot the medical field.

      Need a new heart? It's already been done for mice.
      Ina few years you will be able to order your new heart made with your own cells and have it ready when you get there!

      Amazing stuff!!

       

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      Rekrul, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 4:53pm

      Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

      You can only print small pieces: The technology is scalable. Limited only by your space. Do you have a deep-freeze in your garage? A work bench? in you basement? What happens when home builders start to incorporate an appropriate space for your fabricator?

      They just built a new house next door to me, and as far as I know, they didn't even wire it with Cat-5 cable for networking computers. Adding a special room for a giant fabricator is a long way off.

      What ever the criticism is, just ask what happens when that is no longer a barrier to entry. Price, size, content. None of these things are permanent barriers.

      Inkjet printers have been around as consumer-level devices for at least a decade now, why does it still cost $40-60 for a set of black & color ink cartridges that print a whopping 50 pages, if you're lucky? In some cases, it's actually cheaper to buy a new printer on sale, rather than buying ink cartridges. You'd think that after a decade and inkjet printers becoming extremely common, that ink cartridges would be dirt cheap now, but they aren't. Not to mention that very few people outside of professionals have anything that can print sheets wider than 8-10", even though I'm sure such printers exist. Being able to print posters at home is cool, but most people don't have enough of a need to do that to make it worth it to own an over-sized printer.

      The deciding factor of whether 3D printers will become a common home appliance is how useful they will be to the average person. Will it be cheaper to buy the raw materials and print a set of dishes, or to just buy a set from the store? Yes, you can print replacement parts for various things, but how many people actually replace parts in today's society? Most people can't even be bothered to clean and oil a fan, let alone replace parts. Nobody except the most die-hard fanatic is going to print out and assemble all the parts to build a car. Probably 90% of people today don't even change their own oil.

      In order to gain widespread adoption, 3D printers have to offer a use that the average person will take advantage of. Maybe in the future when you can just select an item from a list, press a button and it's ready a minute later, they'll be common place, but that's not going to be for quite a while. While it's undoubtedly great to be able to print your own 3D stuff at home, most people don't have enough of a need to do that to justify owning a 3D printer in the near future. I'm sure hobbyists will love them, but that doesn't exactly equate to mainstream acceptance.

      I think it's more likely that 3D print shops will spring up. Maybe Kinkos will start offering a 3D printing service.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 1:57am

        Re: Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

        Inkjet printers have been around as consumer-level devices for at least a decade now, why does it still cost $40-60 for a set of black & color ink cartridges that print a whopping 50 pages, if you're lucky?

        Mostly that's patents and proprietary software, but some copy makers are bringing the pricing down to more reasonable levels, and people are buying it up.

         

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          Rekrul, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 8:40am

          Re: Re: Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

          Can you point me to a more affordable printer/cartridge solution? At the moment I own a couple of older LexMark and Epson printers and the cartridges for them are ridiculously expensive for the small volume of ink that they contain.

          Personally, my ideal printer would be one with large ink tanks that could easily be refilled from a commonly available bottle for each color.

           

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        Tim Griffiths (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 7:07am

        Re: Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

        When people are able to do something new they'll find all kinds of new things they will then "need" to do with it. While I think you claim that 3d printers in the short term offer nothing of value to most people is simply a false one you are make a fatal mistake in presuming that there is no need for 3D printing that we are currently not aware of. This is in fact exactly the kind of thinking the article was seeking to point out when it comes to how people manage to overlook disruptive technology.

        There are always unintended consequences, emergent behaviour and ways of thinking that can only come about once something new have enabled them. We've gotten better at understanding and predicting these things as we now have people who where born in and grew up in a world where the pace of technological change has been huge. One of the most important ways of thinking we've developed as a result is that you simply can not look at a new technology and say "there is not enough of a need for that how things stand" because big technologies change how people behave what they want and what they think. Technology is at it's most disruptive when it creates needs that can only exist when the technology is available.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 17th, 2012 @ 1:55am

      Re: 3d Printing is set to be the most disruptive technology yet

      I'd point out that there is a company printing bikes. Whole bikes. Metal printers are still in the range of $10k-$500k, depending on print size and materials. The tech isn't going to take all that long to become much more available as the popularity and demand for this sort of thing is skyrocketing.

       

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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 5:40pm

    I like to project the disruptive technologies for music

    If you've read any of my comments about music, you'll know I am a big proponent of technologies that let everyone make their own music. As more people become music creators themselves (or creators in any field), they can make for themselves what they once paid others for.

    The 3D printers are part of that continuum. If you can make your own version of music merchandise, you have less need to buy it from a musician.

    It's not that I want artists to continue to lose sources of income, it's just that I expect it to happen. And as people cut back on the things that they own (and if in addition they have less money to spend on events like live shows), the money goes out of the system or to other places. For example, the real winners in the 3D printing industry will be those who supply the plastics, metals, etc. that are squirted out of the machines. The ideas of what can be created with the machine will pretty much be free. The digital instructions will be widely shared. There will be mass duplication or modification for anything that people find cool.

    I look forward to the disruptions because I think the world economy needs it. The more we can meet basic needs for everyone, with the fewest resources and the least environmental damage, the better.

     

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    shawnhcorey (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 6:08pm

    Another Quote

    One of my favourites:

    It would appear that we have reached the limits of what it is possible to achieve with computer technology, although one should be careful with such statements, as they tend to sound pretty silly in 5 years.
    John von Neumann, circa 1960

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:22pm

    "It's easy to miss disruptive trends when they arrive -- but the long term impact of doing so can be quite disastrous for those about to be disrupted."

    The remarkable thing here is that, once again, you don't seem to consider the opposite: What happens when you chase every fad as if it was the next telephone or personal computer?

    As an example, consider the fax machine. It would be easy at the time to see it as a disruptive technology (hurt couriers, changed communications forever), but instead it's a technology that has been relegated to low end appliance status. Fedex didn't go broke, UPS still works hard, and so on.

    What happened? The internet came along and made it even easier to send email and to communicate in a manner that didn't need faxes as much. Instead of being a killer technology that dominates how we work, FAX is now more of a narrow market technology used by business in certain ways. Yet, the day couriers, the bike couriers, they are more popular than ever in most cities. The original document is way more important and valuable than a bad FAX copy for most people.

    How about GPS units for cars? Amazing technology, but for the most part, they are getting squeezed out by tablets, cell phones, and even in car navigation. All the promise of GPS as a stand alone product has pretty much evaporated.

    Same issue for stand alone MP3 players, they have gone from popular device to a sideline, as more and more people use their smartphones and tablets to accomplish the same thing.

    In business models, you have the same thing really. While online shopping has proven to be disruptive to retailers, the retailers are starting to take action to combat it. One thing they are starting to figure out is showrooming, with Best Buy recently announcing that during the holiday season (except for Thanksgiving, I think) they will price match online sellers in store. Why order from Amazon and get it in 2 days if you can take it home now for the same price?

    The downside? Best Buy has to put price pressure on the manufacture to keep their margins. At some point, if online sellers are too successful, the showrooms they depend on will shrink or disappear entirely, making it harder for consumers to shop with confidence. The disruptive business model of cheaper online selling won't stand up well by itself.

    Also, online selling depends on delivery being cheap or free to make it work out. Over time, you can expect UPS and Fedex to keep pushing their prices up, as fuel costs continue to soar. Individual delivery service is costly in that manner, when compared to shipping many boxes to a retail store at the same time. At some point, it may be cheaper to buy retail than online, because online has some serious issues.

    So we may look back 20 years from now and see just how silly Amazon was, how quaint an idea it was, like the old general store.

    Mike, I seriously recommend to you something, it's not to be nasty or rude: Start considering the other side more. I think you would find that adding some balance to your stories and your opinions would make you sound less shrill and one sided. I think it would also help you hone your message and make it more realistic, and therefore more powerful. These days your messages and style are getting a little too one sided and a little too insistent, and while that may play to your choir here, it makes you pretty much far down the end of the grey scale on the black and white stick.

    Balance, that is perhaps the lesson here: Don't chase useless technology (ginger... oh ginnnnnger!), and don't chase one sided answers that don't suit everyone.

     

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      Suzanne Lainson (profile), Oct 16th, 2012 @ 7:48pm

      Re:

      The remarkable thing here is that, once again, you don't seem to consider the opposite: What happens when you chase every fad as if it was the next telephone or personal computer?

      I sort of agree with you, but in a different way than your point. I think the shelf life of just about anything is short these days. I've been expecting the decline of Facebook from the beginning of the hype because I've been involved in lots of online groups/communities since 1993 and none of them has staying power. Anything that can quickly replace the past can itself be replaced because there are no significant barriers to entry. (Remember during the first dotcom boom when people actually tried to sell the concept of first mover advantage? So much BS.)

      The churn cycle of much technology today is short. Combine that with a stock market that no longer seems to understand buy and hold and you've got the makings of an economic revolution. What I like about 3D printers are the disruptive possibilities. Will they come to pass? Well, it will be interesting if we get to a point where the printers can replicate themselves so there isn't even a market in selling them. Again, the only money might be in the liquids that the printers consume because those can't be reproduced digitally.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 11:00pm

        Re: Re:

        "What I like about 3D printers are the disruptive possibilities. "

        I think that it is very short term, and very small in the end. Almost everything we use in real life made of plastic still has more to it than just that. It can be anything from the formulation to the process used to make it.

        As an example, you can 3D print a spatula, but I wouldn't recommend using it to cook (for a whole bunch of reasons). You may be able to use it to "print" replacement parts for things on your car, but I wouldn't want to see the liability if one of your hose caps fails and a few people die.

        Further, there is also the consideration of the costs of 3D printing versus the alternate methods. A mass produced injection molded part may be many, many times cheaper than producing the part yourself, and the retail cost, even shipped to your local store, still cheaper than your ability to produce it. For a technology to be truly disruptive, it has to have practical applications, make economic sense for the end users, and actually produce something of value for less than the current retail (or at least wholesale) price. If you don't hit that, you are pretty much doomed from the get go.

        If anything, it looks so much like a technology desperately looking for a real application, and might end up as nothing more than something builder hobbyists really want.

         

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      Ninja (profile), Oct 17th, 2012 @ 5:02am

      Re:

      As an example, consider the fax machine.

      How about GPS units for cars?

      Same issue for stand alone MP3 players


      All of them were incorporated in multi-purpose devices, which does not mean they are less disruptive. In fact, they are so disruptive they became the norm and got assimilated by other gadgets. It's interesting to note that many companies that got a head start with those technologies in the early days failed to adapt to the changing market and ended up breaking.

      Sure UPS works hard and FedEx is there but are they really focused in delivering letters (the predecessors to the e-mail)? Or are them in the cargo transportation business?

      What happens when you chase every fad as if it was the next telephone or personal computer?

      You fail and go bankrupt. That's why it is difficult to be an entrepreneur. How do you know what will be innovative, disruptive and profitable? I once read an interview with one of those entrepreneurs and he highlighted that the great difficulty is you have to ignore what your immediate and natural reaction tells you when you see a new startup you want to invest. Even numbers can be misleading. And while they get failures, there's a sheer number of companies that simply don't boom. But the ones that actually boom (let's say Google style for instance) are worth all the others.

      And the point of the article is this: you have limited resources to invest and not every new thing will be the next iPhone but it's damn easy to dismiss the next iPhone as a fad,

       

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    Jamie Deitchman, Oct 16th, 2012 @ 9:20pm

    Mike might be wrong this time...

    Look, I'm all for sticking it to the man, even if it's just an "I told you so" kind of thing, but I want to borrow from Kreskin here. When a prophet or fortune teller or psychic or whomever makes predictions, they are banking on the fact that you will find ways to interpret their predictions as being correct, and shrug off the ones that are wrong.

    You kind of have that in reverse here. If a certain technology itself did not succeed, and is generally forgotten, there is even less likelihood of a prediction about it being remembered.

    I wonder if some industry leader wrote off QR codes as a fad that would be relegated back to the stock rooms in less than a year? How about 3D TV? Has anyone shot that horse yet?

    Where is the list of accurate Industry predictions about disruptive tech that didn't disrupt all that much?

    Not as interesting if they were correct, so we don't have that list to ponder over.

     

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    Latoya Smith, Oct 24th, 2012 @ 12:18pm

    Printing

    Iíve had my share of less than appealing print jobs, so itíll come as no surprise that I was being more than a little picky when I had to select somewhere to print some posters for my boutique after relocating to Fort Lauderdale FL. A friend suggested I try a local printer, PCA Delta. The postcards were great. Now I use them whenever I have stuff to print. If you need printing done, I highly recommend you give them a try. Check them out at http://www.pcadeltaprinting.com/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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