Technology makes the world go round for businesses and the consumers they aim to service. Every year, there always seems to be something to new to whet the appetites of the tech savvy earlier adopters. 2013 is chock full of interesting technological innovations, but the advancements in 3D printing stand out to the point of commanding the attention of managed service providers.
The Wonderful World of 3D Printing
VPI Industries, perhaps best known for its award-winning line of turntables, is turning heads for its innovative use of 3D printing. The manufacturer debuted what is being called the first ever 3D-printed tonearm at the recent New York Audio Show. With the aid of a Pennsylvania-based design firm, VPI created a synthetic tonearm that is made of an epoxy-plastic and carries a three dimensional print from headshell to stub. According to the results obtained in a private listening session, the synthetic piece had a profound impact on the sound quality of VPI’s Classic Direct turntable.
Also known as addictive manufacturing, 3D printing uses software to create solid objects of three dimensional proportions from digital models. In theory, whatever you can design in a computer program, can be transformed into physical object. The software is aided by a specialized machine that builds the model from a succession of materials ranging from paper to liquid. 3D printing is currently used in areas such as architecture, industrial design, and aerospace, but is diverse enough to power applications in virtually all areas.
3D Printing in the Business World
The flexibility of 3D printing makes it a potentially powerful tool in the business environment. However, much of that potential hinges on the technology’s accessibility. For instance, depending on your area of specialty, you could simply design models of your products, then allow customers to purchase and print them out on their own. In this scenario, you are essentially cutting out the middleman and as we all know, no middleman means more money in your pocket.
While the possibilities are endless, they are also, for now at least, sort of limited. 3D printers cost a pretty penny, with high-end units going for tens of thousands of dollars. Models that would be considered reasonably priced by the typical consumer are out there, but tend to lack the functionality and flexibility that make their high-end counterparts so attractive. With that in mind, it may be safe to say that this trend may not truly show what it’s made on the business front until it gives consumers some cheaper options to work with, which according to Gartner, could arrive by 2016.
Opportunity Knocks for MSPs
A report published by Wohlers Associates predicts that 3D printing will generate $3.7 billion for the industry by 2015 and more than $6.5 billion by 2019. That tells me that this interesting piece of tech may soon be as vital as the virtualization, CRM, and business analytics platforms organizations deploy in their application infrastructures. The bigger this thing grows, the more doors it will open in the IT sector. Managed service providers that deliver the infrastructure needed to support this critical need will be in line to enjoy a cozy competitive edge.
What else should have MSPs on notice? How about wearable computers? Learn more.