From the computer to the tabletop, this is all about games. Updated each week-end.
3D printing is rapidly approaching the point where it will gain traction in the mass market, or be forever relegated to a niche hobbyist toy.
Sean is currently writing a series on how 3D printing can impact your hobby, and I’ve found the articles to be informative and entertaining so far. They also got me thinking, both about myself, and the hobby market in general.
As an individual, you can sit is different places on the adoption chart depending on the product. I had a dial-up internet account in 1995, but it was 2005 before I got my first mobile phone, and 2013 before my first smart phone.
For 3D printers, the early adopters are on board, and there’s enough of them that a nascent market has formed, with providers of devices and providers of 3D print files competing for dollars and generally innovating away.
Here’s an adoption chart, with my added annotation:
I prefer versions of this chart with ‘the chasm’ in place. The simple fact is that not every product follows this chart, as not every product gains mass market acceptance. Some, like hobby train sets (remember those?) just don’t get into the mass market at all.
There’s two things any product needs to cross the chasm: ease of use, and availability. Price is relevant, but generally less important than the first two. As the price of a good 3D printer crosses the price of the average Games Workshop starter set, the stage is set for wider adoption.
When it comes to the more expensive GW boxed sets, that has already happened.
So the products now need to be as easy to use as a Games Workshop boxed set. Can you go to your local shops, buy one, bring it home, set it up, and use it? Right now for 3D printers, the answer is no. Games Workshop boxed sets (I’m anchored to this comparison now!) still require set up and assembly before you can use them.
The fact that a 3D printer is more complicated than a TV is not a big deal, since we aren’t trying to get our parents to buy one.
By ease of use, the 3D printer needs to have a wide array of models that can simply be plugged in and spat out. As long as what is produced is comparable to what you can buy in the store – and similarly available – then we’ll see the mass market (in hobby terms) start to pick them up.
The mainstream market wants to see a practical benefit for themselves along with the certainly of a product they can use.
Products like the Elegoo are basically there, but makers of 3D print files need to both become more visible, and start offering quality models with supports embedded in the files. This allows the interested to simply plug and print, which gets over the concern about a 3D printer being an expensive purchase that doesn’t get used.
In terms of availability, 3D printers and files can be found scattered across websites but there’s no central hub as yet bringing these things together. I can walk into my local games store and buy a GW boxed set but not a 3D printer, resin, and a USB of files. Space is limited and valuable in a brick and mortar store, so 3D printers would need to pay their way by proving demand before any right-minded store would stock them. However expensive board games and boxed sets have their market, the question is could an average store expect to sell enough 3D printers to seek them out and stock them?
I think the next 2-3 years will determine whether 3D printers cross the chasm, or fall into it.